Sunday, September 17, 2017

Loyalty, Brexit, Choice

There was an article in the Times today about how American owners are messing up British soccer. I wasn't aware there were so many American owners, but I totally get it. Sports teams and their relationships to their fan bases are a special team, as we Tar Heels know. And, as I think I've shared over the years, my own relationship to UNC has been frayed in recent years, as I realize that it is as much if not more to the institution of Dean Smith and Bill Friday as it is to a succession of guys who can run, jump and shoot.

When Fox Soccer started showing lots of Premier League soccer round about 2006-7, or when I first noticed it, they showed the big clubs the most:  Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, etc. But probably United most of all, so I got to know them.

And it did seem that United had a special culture under Alex Ferguson, longer tenures, greater continuity. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, there seemed to be a more stable core there than at other clubs.

Rooney was at the center of it all. You could tell he had issues, he was brash, I occasionally heard a story about him sleeping with somebody else's girlfriend. But he always seemed genuinely excited when he scored, he really enjoyed the game, he took it very personally in a good way. He was invested in his team.

But like all of us, he aged, and over time became less of a superstar. He did not have Giggs' preternatural longevity. So this summer, when I heard that he had spurned offers to go to America or China to cash in big and had chosen instead to return to Everton, I was impressed. I view this as like Lebron going back to Cleveland, though of course he is not at the same level as Lebron, and there is no hope whatsoever of his sparking a miracle there.

So it turns out, according to the Google, that Rooney returns to Old Trafford today. It also turns out that there was a lot of criticism of his self-centeredness and money-grubbing through his years at MU. Guess I missed that. Certainly I don't have time to read English gossip columns. I basically like the guy. So shoot me.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Letting go

There is so much to do, so many responsibities. This morning I went to my meeting, had to take some stuff to the dump, in the middle of it Natalie texts me because she doesn't know where to go for her college counseling session. Should she text the woman she was meeting with, she asks me. I was about to call the woman myself, but then I realized: no, my daughter has a "smart phone," and she needs to learn how to use it. Which means dialing somebody up and calling them.

Then I get home. Mary is in the middle of taking some light fixture out of the ceiling and having problems, a task I wasn't expecting to fall on my lap. Natalie needs to print her transcript/resume. The college counselor needs to be briefed on where we are in the process. Marvin shows up to do some painting. Graham needs to go to martial arts.

And this is all going during what is supposed to be blogging time, people. It is hard for me to let go of shit and let it flow. I know I cain't do all of this, but sometimes it is just so hard to coordinate and facilitate and breathe.

My shoulder is still hurting, I know that I should not play soccer today, much as it kills me.

In the background of all of this, we've still got to get the house prepped for Graham's birthday party tomorrow.

Why you should want to read about all of this, I can't tell you. Perhaps it is by way of excusing the lack of thoughtful blog posts.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mountain Road

We were off at a family wedding in Rome, Georgia over the weekend. A few reflections:

  • The south is not dying everywhere. On a walk we visited a cemetery up on a hill over the local river. At the top was a memorial to the confederate soldier, of whom 300 were buried there. Nothing was defaced. Down at the bottom we saw there was a big statue in honor of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate bigwig and an early leader of the Klan. 
  • On the way back, we took back roads through the North Carolina mountains rather than staying on the interstate. It worked out well. The roads were much prettier, though the most remarkable thing was how hard it is to have a business even on what should have been pretty key tourist thoroughfares. There were of course the familiar bunches of failed and mouldering motels, some transformed into long-term low-cost housing for itinerant workers and/or people with otherwise unstable life situations. But we stopped at a place with a beautiful overlook along a ridge near the Nantahala Valley. There was a nice outdoor eating space, but the bar/restaurant was defunct, and its sitting space was served by a taco truck, which itself was only just opening up when we got there around 1 (maybe they were watching from across the road and nobody had stopped, and didn't want to waste fuel?). In any case, the tacos were perfectly delicious.  I should have tipped more.
  • But it was hard to concentrate on the scenery, because we were focusing on listening to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, a very good and insightful book.  It was just long enough to occupy us the whole way there and back. I will have to comment on it in another post, the work day beckons.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Hidden inflation

Central banks, the Fed in particular, have been concerned in recent years about their inability to push inflation above 2%, which would let them raise rates and provide them with ammo for the next recession. This evening, at Nantucket Grill, I saw numerous signs of hidden inflation.

For starters, on Tuesday, cake night, you now need to order a $13 entree to get free cake. Used to be $10. So lower discounting, or greater pricing power.

At check out, they tacked on a 20% mandatory tip for our group of 7. 18% used to be standard.

Most importantly, service was slow, and in particular they had a hard time getting bread to our table. This reflects super tight labor markets and high demand.

All told, it took us 2 hours for what should and could have been a 90 minute meal. Which is a pretty big hidden cost.

Also, they put a bunch of squash in my pasta dish. I don't know what the fuck was up with that.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

I/O Ratios writ large

I have written about input/output ratios before at the micro level, but a post on Facebook brought me back to the theme at the macro level.

A friend of mine said that he was spending sometimes 5-6 hours a day watching CNN or MSNBC and that he knew it was bad and felt he was addicted to outrage. In the wake of the election, this is a trap many of us have fallen into, to varying extents. There is so much going on that it is impossible to stay on top of it all. It has felt often like a Bannon-led blitzkrieg, to push liberal buttons as hard as possible to keep us trapped in front of our television sets, while who knows what the fuck else is going on. In some regards, the answer to that may be as little as possible, as the Trump administration has sought to lay siege to the deep state by what can only be termed "malign neglect." As Exhibit A, I offer this Michael Lewis article on the current status of the Department of Energy.

But look at that, there I go advocating more input. The key thing now is that there is a limit to how much we can take in, and how we should be taking it in. I kind of feel that any data that can be consumed within the walls of one's own house, car, or office should be limited. There is inherent value in going out and talking to other people, particularly people who are different from you, by virtue of whatever, political inclination, race, class, you name it. Often the conversations are frustrating. Often engaging in them is an art in self-restraint.

OK. Having said this, I have a call scheduled now with a young woman who used to be my next door neighbor in Princeton, whose dad went to high school with Mary, so I can recommend her for a job with the CTO of the New York Times, who I went to Yale with. These are all people I love, members of my tribe. I'll talk to some different people later.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What to do

As Hurricane Harvey begins to abate, a tension wells up within me about appropriate responses. Even as the floodwaters have risen, there are a host of voices focusing on the climate-change and other political themes around the storm, including: to what extent did climate change exacerbate the storms impact? To what extent is the damage a function of poor urban planning?  Will willingness to fund relief follow a political path (i.e. will Republicans who balked at funding relief for Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast change their tune for a Texas-focused storm?)  Are inland people inappropriately subsidizing those who live close to coasts?

These are all valid questions.  Is it the time to be asking them now, or do they just distract from a proper focus on supporting first responders?  Do they need to be asked now just because media cycles turn so quickly, and if we are focused next week on North Korea or Russia or some other left-right violent incident?

None of these are easy questions.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Re-entry

I went with Natalie to her high school to do an administrative chore to get her a parking place.  I wasn't prepared for how emotional it would be, between the fact that she -- my little girl -- is a senior in high school, the level of stress and anticipation in the students themselves (or was I just projecting?), and me just settling back into my own groove and getting things back in gear. And just being tired from a long weekend of the Be Loud! concerts.

At the high school, they were serving food near the entrance. I am guessing that that is part of a government program to make sure that lower income students have something in their belly before school starts, an unquestionable good thing. But I found myself kind of wishing it wasn't happening right there at the front door, as if to begin the big status sort (as if class weren't already visible enough) just a few steps inside the school. There was an African-American kid eating his food near us while Natalie and I were waiting for an administrator to arrive at work and let us do our business (we were early, to be sure). He was hunched over his bowl and I could sort of feel his mild shame. Or, again, I could have projected it, and just have that on my mind after reading Hillbilly Elegy as well as this excellent story in the Times about an unexpected incident of grace.

In any case, I was overall proud to be in America this morning, I was given some hope.

Though my freaking shoulder is intermittently killing me from that tumble I took this weekend on the soccer field. By now it is pretty clear that we aren't talking about muscles here, Konanc's reassurances notwithstanding. It is most likely tendons. Crabill is gonna rib me mercilessly about it.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Dip in

I usually avoid the City when we come to the New York area in August, too hot, nobody's home. Yesterday evening I made an exception to see my friend Eric who was in town from Italy. His dad is pretty sick, will probably not be long amongst us. A great great guy, it will be very sad to see him go.

So I popped in after dinner, listening to the new Jason Isbell live shows that George had ripped for me from wherever it is on the interweb that he gets music. Great great stuff. And it was a beautiful night for a drive, the air cooling. I will confess that I feel like I know the roads a little less like the back of my hand as the time of my Northern residence recedes further into the rearview.

I got off the West Side Highway at 125th Street, mesmerized by the new Columbia science building where the McDonald's used to be. Much has changed. But I was very happy to see that La Floridita, the Dominican place just North of the McDonalds (and KFC?) where I used to get 1/4 chicken with rice and beans for $2.95, had found a new, somewhat swankier home just west of the gleaming newe tower.

As I pulled up to a light, I was reminded of an incident 30ish years ago when I pulled up to 6th Ave and Central Park South. I was used to the "stop and go" style of handling red lights in the suburbs, in which we suburban boys, whose time was so valuable we needed to rush. Would pull up to a red light, stop instantaneously, and then invoke the right on red priviledge to get around the corner before the pedestrians on the sidewalk started across the street. So I tried that right there at 59th and 6th with a bunch of people on the sidewalk, but pedestrians had already started into the crosswalk. I slammed on the breaks. Hilary screamed at the top of her lungs: "You fucking idiot what the hell are you doing?!" The pedestrians cursed me and a couple hit my car with fists. No one was hurt.

And thus I learned that there is no right on red in New York City.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Brands, paralysis and value

Behavioral economists have done a lot of research on decision-making, and one of the themes they have isolated is that having too many choices makes it harder for people to make decisions. I've seen the most work on this theme around investment decisions, specifically the number of investment options that should be made available to retirement plans. Fewer is better, and some 401ks now have as few as 5 options, plus target date funds.

I think the principal holds true in life in general: faced with too many options, we get overwhelmed. My mind races to the stories of people leaving the Soviet Union for the first time back in the 80s and 90s, coming into western stores, especially in the United States, and freaking out over the surfeit of options for everything. We all have a little bit of that, and the internet makes it worse. So we revert to the tried and true, and that means brands, first and foremost. Be streamlining decision-making processes, brands help us save our most precious commodity: time, and allocate it to higher-value-add functions such as exercise, strategizing and talking to people,

This is particularly true of cheap little things, like razors. Last night Rob was showing me some Korean razors that he thinks are better than the brand I use (I'm not gonna plug here), but why should I bother looking into it, particularly since our pharmacist Steve has talked me into doubling or tripling the life of each razor cartridge by just using it longer?

Because of this, brands actually add huge value to our days by not letting us get distracted by stupid little crap. Small wonder that, when you look at world corporations, there has been an evolution from a time when the majority of their value was explained by tangible, physical assets to now, when most of the value is tied up in intangible assets like goodwill and humam capital.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Short day

What with the eclipse coming up and all, then we head up to Uncle George's in the evening.

Spent the weekend reading JD Vance's Hillbilly Elegy. The advance press was warranted on this one, it is worth reading. There may be some who resist the idea of crying for lower-income white people, on the theory that they are, after all, white, and particularly the males amongst them therefore have a couple of things going for them, however they may whine about affirmative action stacking the cards against them. I get that.

However, here's a fact: despite all the talk of the fragmentation of the media and cultural landscape, the rural and post-industrial white people have a pretty consistent cultural footprint. Fox News dominatres the ratings for news, and a lot of them watch football and baseball and like the military and flags and church. So they are pretty reachable in a way that the left is not. So it is in fact worth taking the time to understand where they are coming from.

But I shouldn't reduce the reading of Vance to merely a political exercise. This is a brave and thoughtful book, and he is clearly a pretty remarkable guy. Most importantly, he really keeps his eye on the ball, and concentrates the book on what he thinks are the most important issues in his life, and how they refract the bigger picture of America.

I remember making it halfway through Sonia Sotomayor's memoir, which has many common threads with Vance's. Then about halfway through she gets distracted talking about what a good cook she has become, as if trying to impress the reader. I think what turned me off was a little bit of vanity, which would obviously annoy me, the most humble and virtuous person on the planet. Vance does not fall into this trap.

I hope he runs for office. Anyone who calls out Mitch Daniels as his favorite politican can't be all bad. I won't promise that I would vote for him, but it would be good to keep hearing his voice.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Working vacation

It is of course a contradiction in terms.  I come up here to the Northeast in August with a few goals. First and foremost, to see family. All of Mary's people are here, and after 23 years or so they are my people too. The kids are used to seeing uncles, aunt, cousin, grandma, the sound, a play in the city. It is part of the rhythm of our life.

But, I already took a couple of weeks vacation in July. My practice is still not entirely at cruising altitude. Thankfully I don't have pressing and immediate client issues, except for figuring out how best to service my non-standard clients. But there is tons to do.

And I wake up first most mornings, and the air is cool, and I'm looking out over the water in a pretty chill locale, and days are shortened by the need to do family things in the evening... And we're having pizza tonight, so I should really exercise.

This is all layered on top of the general conflict within me of trying to figure out how best to allocate my time, feeling like I need to make good use of myself. And it is all within the context of operating within an extremely rarefied cohort in an atmosphere of extreme white privilege. So there is guilt.

Trump is 15 miles away to the south. This weekend there will be an attempt at a "March on Google" in New York. It will be interesting to see who turns out. Should I go?

Probably not. My instinct is that direct engagement with, or acknowledgement of, the extreme right is right now playing into Bannon's hands, giving Breitbart et al fodder to rile people up. This weekend, it is better to ignore them.

Or keep reading JD Vance,'s  Hillbilly Lament which I started last night. Pretty easy reading.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Finding coffee

I have written of the extent to which we, as a family, are held hostage by the tradition of afternoon coffee. It is really a little pathetic, but it's true.

Last summer we were in Normandy and, it being France, you would think that each village has a perfect little sidewalk cafe where one could get a cafe au lait and a flaky pain au chocolat while seated in the shade. But that is complete bullshit, it turns out.

Tourist bullshit. There were days when we found ourselves driving around for like 45 minutes to find something vaguely resembling this ideal. In many small villages, there is maybe a pizza place and a smelly Bar/Tabac, which would have worked for me, but not the kids. Sometimes there's not even that.

There is also no Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc. Just as many small American towns may just have a Pizza Hut or perhaps just Hunt Brothers pizza available at a convenience store (actually not horrible pizza, better than Papa John's or Domino's, and a pretty good business).

In so many ways, we constantly forget how good we have it.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Leaving it on the court

Played tennis last night, doubles, didn't play well. Last week I had played singles and had played well.

I know I know, why should you care? The point is, dear reader, that tennis has always been and continues to be an object lesson for the Grouse in self-control. I feel crappy when I play poorly, and it becomes hard to distinguish between performance and self-esteem, it gets hard to remember that having played poorly doesn't reflect badly on me as a person. In fact, upon reflection, I can see that letting it get to me reflects slightly badly on me as an adult, whereas the actual playing does not, except to the extent that it is impacted by my poor self management.

The key thing is getting some exercise, meeting and hanging with some folx, and so on. I get that as soon as I get home and nestle into the couch for some family viewing. (Right now "Stranger Things" on NetFlix, a production of some Durham boys and a woman I went to college with, oddly enough)

In the end, all I can really say is praise allah that I don't play golf. That would be a mess. Especially for you readers.



Tuesday, August 08, 2017

More on Ferrante

There is a temptation to call the Neapolitan novels a Bildungsroman, a narrative of personal formation and growth, and to an extent it is true. But in some sense it is the tale of the de-formation of personhood, the excessive and lifelong interdependency of two persons, namely Lenu (our narrator) and Lina, her best friend, rival, and other half.

The question that naturally arises is: how much is this norm, how much exception?  I.e. are we all like that, or is this a little extreme. As so many questions, I think the answer is probably: both. That is, the Lenu/Lina relationship is over the top, but in so being it digs into the heart of many human relationships, that many of us skate on the edge of excessive "enmeshment" (a term a counsellor friend I was talking with yesterday suggested) as we go through life, ever charting our own courses and being pulled back into the orbits of our key partners in life, our parents, spouses, friends, children, etc.

This is before we even begin to discuss Lenu and Lina as "types" representative of historical courses, Lenu, like a leftist/literary Forrest Gump, travels out and everywhere, becomes through her spouse and kids a global citizen, Lina never goes anywhere, but delves deep into the historical roots and bowels of Naples, all the while becoming ever more complex, deeper and richer. Or not.

It is a big burgeoning troth of food for thought. Them belly full but me hungry.

Monday, August 07, 2017

The Neapolitan Novels

I'm not sure when I started them, not all that long ago, it's kind of a blur, but I pushed through to the end of volume 4 of Elena Ferrante's quartet yesterday.

It is a remarkable series of books. To fully encapsulate it, I have to resort to Tolstoy's perhaps apocryphal rejoinder when someone asked him what Anna Karenina was about. He started to recite the book from the beginning. And Tolstoy is, in the end, the best analogy to Ferrante, though her project is closer to War and Peace than it is to Anna Karenina in the sheer breadth of its scope and ambition. It is closer to Faulkner, though, in the intensity of its focus on place, in this case Naples.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing is that, although it is told from the first person, Ferrante resists the temptation to have what Forster calls "flat" characters. Instead, the characters are all more or less "round," complex, with multidimensional motivations for their paths in life. While there's no doubt that some are more fully-fleshed than others, there's at least an attempt at some depth wherever possible, which is not chopped liver, as far as novel-writing goes.

And for this reason, having finished it, I am ever so slightly tempted to go back and read it again. Not that that's gonna happen, it's kindred to the urge to have another baby long after you've really sworn it off and can see the finish line of emptynesterdom.

But I will read more Ferrante in time, to be sure.

For now, Deep Space 9 beckons.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

The vanishing of labor, continued

Building on this theme from a few weeks back.

The whole idea that all jobs can be automated away and that therefore there will be no work in the future is predicated on the idea that the only work worth doing is the jobs that are being done. So, if groceries can be rung up, or assets allocated, or loans underwritten by bots, then everybody should be sitting around.

Meanwhile, climate change continues apace, there is food insecurity in Africa and food deserts in lower income neighborhoods, obesity is on the rise everywhere, everybody feels like they need a gun because everybody else has one, especially those bad people over there. There is horrific inequality all over the place, health care cannot be equitably provided, etc. etc. Globally, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Palestine, amongst others, present seemingly insoluble challenges.

I am reminded of Giuliani's sneering branding of Obama as a "community organizer." It seems to me that community organizing is the thing we need most, only we need it at a much higher level than Obama was doing it in Chicago. In 2008, he seemed like he might have raised his game to do it at a global level, but that proved to be too great of a challenge even for him. The Nobel Committee fell flat on its face fawning before him, even as McConnell and the Tea Party threw up a wall of white resentment. Boehner may have represented a bridge not taken.

This is not Obama's fault. It is our fault, and our problem, and our path out.

It is not that work is vanishing, but that there is so so very much work to be done, and the very best work. We just need to figure out how to do it. Melinda Gates is doing a pretty good job showing white Americans an ideal of how it might be done. She is the new Princess Diana.

Time to swim.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Thank you, Jesus

I went to a pig picking out west of Yanceyville yesterday, and was guided in my way there by the ever faithful Sergei and Larry, appearing in the guise of Google Maps. They took me down many a country road that I ne'er had seen. I was intrigued by many things, but first and foremost by the "thank you Jesus" signs that I saw in many yards. They were so uniform, I assumed that they must have been distributed in a top-down fashion, and that it couldn't have come from just one church. I assumed as well that, if WalMart or some other retailer was selling them, there would be more than one variety.  And since there was punctuation absent, to wit, a comma that should have been there, I assumed that it must have come from somewhere within the Trump organization. It seemed like Bannon's work, most likely.

But when I got home later and had sufficient bandwidth, I put the question to Sergei and Larry directly, and they informed me that it was in fact a bottom up effort, founded by a kid from nearby Asheboro who has founded a movement to put these in many yards.


So I guess my suspicions were unfounded.

However, given that they appeared to be perched in the yards of many presumed Trump voters, I still don't get it. It would be good to have more discussions with rural Christians to understand how they square Trump with the savior.  I just don't get it.

Today, at RiteAid, I took my blood pressure from the little machine there. When I was done, it said something to me and I was like: "what?"  I thought it had said "Praise God." Then I reflected, and decided it must have said "Great job." I guess I am a little jumpy on the question of Christian theocracy these days. But who could blame me?

Clearly, this week's events show that the Mooch, if no one else, walks in the footsteps of Jesus.

Discussing rugs

I have been encouraging Mary to make a decision about a rug for the rec room for some time. Just now she called me in there to help her look at some options, and there were many variables to consider, culled from design web sites she had looked at and imagined scenarios of guests in the home that happen infrequently.  Also perceived budgetary constraints, she thinking that she needs to spend little money because many months ago I suggested that we should have a budget for the overall project of redoing the rec room.  In my mind, having a budget doesn't mean doing everything as cheaply as possible, it just means having some sort of framework in place for the overall spend. I like spreadsheets.

She makes me crazy with some of this shit, and I don't necessarily articulate my craziness well. I think the root issue is that I have my own loopy cogitations I am continually trying to sort through, so that being dragged into her overthinking just adds insult to my own already bad enough injury.

Also, she wants everything to be perfect because she's afraid she'll be locked in forever, whereas I want to have it good enough so we can move forward and achieve the ultimate aim -- having it look good enough so we can host more.

All in all, it's just marriage, as complex an evolutionary process as one is likely to find.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Levanter

I read through this 1972 Eric Ambler novel between volumes 3 and 4 of Ferrante. A palate-cleanser, as it were.

At first it seemed sort of slow to get going, kind of quaint in the degree of technical detail into which it delved around various matters concerning the manufacture of this or that (the Levanter in the title is an industrial exec with an engineering background), and in the scale of evil contemplated by the neerdowells he runs into and must foil, as of course he must.

But Ambler was one of Hitchcock's core writers, and not for nothing. From improbable material, by 2017 standards, he was able to weave an impressive set of conflicts and plot. Relative to the hyperactive and explosive plots we are used to from novels and movies today, it is slow, but worthy reading. This is one of his best.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Quick fix

I have been kvetching about the interior of our old Volvo off and on for about two years now, judging by the blog (I see entries from November 2015 mentioning it). A couple of times I have been on the point of plowing money into it, then held back for this or that reason.

Just yesterday, Natalie went and got her "after 9s" license, meaning she is now just as adult a driver as I am, in the eyes of the law. To celebrate, she went out to a movie and then hung out with her friend's Dora and Susanna.  So she merits a car, according to the law of the suburbs.

The other evening I was looking at places where the header (interior fabric) of the Volvo was hanging down by the front and rear windshields, and I thought:  I wonder if a stapler could help with that?  So I went inside and got a stapler, and I'll be damned if it didn't do a good job addressing the basic problem.

The main thing that had been bothering me in the interior had been the fabric hanging down from the sunroof, which just looked crappy and filled me with a little shame. I thought:  "There's no way the stapler will work here." But I tried it anyway and, though it doesn't look good if you look right at it, it does hold the fabric up.

Which just goes to show you that people, me in particular, should not overthink and overfeel things.

And, with the money I saved, I was able to make a small contribution to the website tracking Susanna's dad's battle against leukemia, or, rather, informing the community around him. Not that I actively thought about it that way, but that's what I did.

Moving on now.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reality check

Headed to lunch today, was right on time, which means I wasn't 5 minutes early, which in business circles is optimal. So I was rushing, and I was thinking the place I needed to pull in was 100 yards down the way, when in fact it was right there. I could have just gone further down and pulled in to the other end of the parking lot, but I didn't.  I had accelerated needlessly, and I veered into the parking lot and slammed on the brakes.

The people at the Subaru dealership had recommended that I go ahead and get new brakes, while the people at AutoLogic said I had another 7500 miles before I did. At that moment, it felt like the people at the dealership were right.

The moral to the story, if you hadn't gotten there, was that I should have left earlier. I have, in fact, been taking silly risks to carve 15-30 seconds off of things, like being one lane to the right of where I need to be 300 yards down the road, making it necessary to beat the car to my left off the line. This is not a hard thing to do if I focus on the light and utilize the newfound advantages of my stick shift. But it is still stupid. Bad for gas mileage, bad for the car, and it makes me focus on beating somebody off the line, which is an idiotic waste of attention.

Note to self. Leave earlier.