Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More on Caro

I'm making my way through volume 3 of Caro's bio of LBJ.  With about 1600 pages of this opus under my belt, I can tell you that I'm getting a little tired of LBJ, and I'll be damned if I don't think Caro is too.  He really gets to swinging when he is writing about Johnson's allies and antagonists.  The section of Coke Stephenson -- Governor of Texas, Mr. Texas -- was brilliant, and the 40 page introduction to Richard Russell, the Senator from Georgia, was also great.  Same with the portrait of Sam Rayburn.  The same thing, honestly, was true of the book on Robert Moses.  You could feel Caro growing tired of his protagonist, a little, while getting excited about the other guys:  Fiorello LaGuardia, even FDR got interesting treatment.

Or maybe it's just me and I'm projecting.  Certainly one can learn a lot about US history in general by reading Caro, even if you have to put up with a lot of detail on the sociopaths that make it chug.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Zipless travel

A piece in the Wall Street Journal today informs us that Hilton has developed apps to let travelers perform many key travel functions on their smartphones:  check-in, check-out, open door, etc.  Sounds pretty cool, and you know it will hold appeal to the jeunesse doree of the corporate world, ever-focused on expediting processes on the road.  I know, I used to be one of them, and sometimes still am.  Automation and process streamlining has done wonders for things like checking in at airports and picking up and dropping off rental cars, etc.

But doing the same thing at hotels would just remove another piece of human contact when traveling to a region, and cut jobs from one of the few sectors that has been experiencing job growth in the post-Great Recession world.  Which could be good or bad.

The canonical argument is that automating lower-value-adding functions frees up productive capacity to things that add more value.  In principle, in down with that.  I believe that anybody who is working in less remunerative positions has the potential within themselves to grow into someone who can do something better and more valuable.

At the same time, we as a society haven't shown a dedication to putting the pieces in place to facilitate that growth.  It's not just public schools.  For-profit companies are not incented to develop talent broadly when labor is treated as an entirely fungible commodity, when labor is plentiful, not scarce.

On the other hand, there is the specific possibility that Hilton will take the money it saves and focus on providing better and more differentiated services.  Hampton Inns usually have halfway decent cookies available at check-in, and the ones at DoubleTree are even better. The guidance we got from the Mexican-American concierge at the DoubleTree in San Antonio was superb. He directed us to the best and cheapest breakfast taco place nearby.  Yum!

We will see if markets help us reallocate the savings gleaned from this level of automation to everyone's ultimate benefit.  In 2014 America, I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

the delicate balance

After a lengthy spell of reading this morning, which included a lot of NY Times and even a little Pushkin, I came upstairs intending to bang out a quick blog post.  But then I heard the rarest of sounds -- Natalie, home for less than 48 hours after 3 weeks at Duke's TIP, on her way to a Spanish immersion camp up at New Hope on the way to Hillsborough -- had emerged from her room and intended to eat lunch.  During her brief stay at home, she has not surprisingly reverted to her traditional ways of cocooning in her room, mostly on her beanbag chair with her earbuds on, texting with her friends, and reading.

So I had no real choice but to go downstairs and observe her eating the leftover rice and beans that she claimed as her own, and to try to get her to talk.  But I didn't try too hard, better to let her chill and enjoy this brief spate at home.

She loved her time at Duke.  She made a number or new BFFs, from Texas, New Mexico, and -- just as if not more exciting -- from across town, girls who will go to (go Tigers!) Chapel Hill High School as opposed to East Chapel Hill High School.

In any case, any shards of deep insight I might have had, inspired by this morning's reading, have been dissipated by the prosaics of parenting.  But, honestly, I think that's what you, my readers, seem to prefer anyway.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Hmmmm

While we were "hiking" on the Appalachian trail the other day, I remarked at some point in time that one of the concerns with riding bicycles long distances was culture conflict between bikers and people in pick-up trucks.  Mary remarked that she didn't really believe that anyone on the road really meant to hurt bikers.  Not long thereafter we passed a solitary hiker in full through hiker regalia, including some pretty funky rigging to keep his pack dry, and I made a comment about how the long-distance hikers looked with disdain upon those of us who were out on the trail for short jaunts.  Mary, again, noted that I had no way of knowing that.

And, indeed, I had to admit that she had me, and that maybe it is some quirk in me that imputes aggressive and other ill motives to others.  Is it maybe just a guy thing, or does it have to do with being extremely and continuously competitive (even though I'm not all that obsessed with winning and conquest)?  Is it tied, indeed, with the same quantitative focus that makes me ever-attuned to the mileage my car is getting?

Hard to say. 

In any case, I need to go mow the lawn before going for a swim.  Natalie is home between summer camp/school sessions, and there will be family dinner to be grilled and eaten before long.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ghost parks

Mary and I hiked down from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Crabtree Falls today.  Good hike, lovely falls.  Up near the Parkway there were port-a-potties, but the visitor's center was closed.  Meanwhile, the camping sites -- conveniently next to individual parking spaces and with little level platforms to pitch your tent comfortably -- were all seemingly derelict, as was an "amphitheater" used for god knows what back in the day.  There was a "store" back up there by the parking lot which presumably used to sell stuff to people at the 100-odd camping sites that now sit empty.  Hard to figure if it was ever feasible business-wise.  A water fountain down down near the trail head no longer worked.

It's hard to figure if one should be sad about all this decay.  On the one hand, it's nicer to see things not falling apart, once money has been spent on them.  On the other hand, is a modest decline in car camping really such a bad thing?  Are people actually being more rugged and camping out in the woods?

Not in these woods, I don't think.

In any case, I know I ain't no camper.

Up on Roan Mountain the day before, the visitor's center was also closed.  Maybe because it was a weekday, or is this reflective of a general de-funding of the National Parks?  Hard to say.

They had surely spent some money sending a bunch of heavy-set lads up on the balds of the roan to rev up some weed-eaters and keep the bald closest to the road nice and bald.  I can't help but think it would be better for all concerned if they'd shut off those 2-stroke engines and give those dudes some freaking scythes.  It would be much quieter, much gentler on the air, and those fellas would get some much-needed exercise.  Have them all read the chapter from Anna Karenina in which Levin learns to mow with a scythe from the peasants so they could catch the groove.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Brain extensions

So I got a new smart phone a few weeks back, and haven't really had a chance to play with it and grow into it much.  One thing I'm happy to have begun doing is merging the address books of a couple of gmail accounts I have.  I could explain why I have two, but it would be oh so boring.

And it is good that Google and the interweb and even the phone itself (is it Android, or the phone's instantiation of it?  I don't know and don't care) have tools in there to help me with this process. But the synch up hasn't been perfect and I've delayed fixing it till I took my exam, which is done.  And I could tell you about that, but that would be even more boring.

So today I'm reading in the paper and see there's a start-up called Humin as well as others -- including so Google platform -- that are trying to take this to the next level and integrate all of our social networks and think ahead of us.  So, do things like keep track of who I know across my address book, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. in a given area, and when I'm there (say, I'm in Boston) give me a heads up and say "why don't you call Jimmy and Johnny?"  Which is interesting.  The kind of feature I've thought about myself.

But to me it raises and interesting question:  when we automate these processes, mnemonic associations, ways of navigating in the world, and we grow dependent on our devices, do the old habits we had before we had the devices atrophy, and does that make us less able to think for ourselves?  Or does it free our minds up to do other work?

Certainly, I can tell you that the more I've grown dependent on navigation devices on my phone or on my dashboard, the less I pay attention to learning and remembering where I'm going.  After I graduated from college, I began developing a science of what I called at the time "semi-idiotics", the science of road signs and road signifieds.  I was kind of joking, but kind of not.  I in fact became rather adept at getting around, and developed a light science.  So, for example, when driving in the country, a road named after a man-made thing "Merritt Mill Road" or "Fayetteville Road" is likely to be a through road, while one named after a natural thing "Springbrook Road" or "Green Meadow Drive" is more likely to be lead into a crazy subdivision which will get me nowhere.

I also know that I'm less good at remembering people's names and the names of their kids now than I once was. Could just be aging.

We know there are natural constraints on what we can hold in memory. The Dunbar Number tells us that the number of people anyone can know reasonably well at any point in time is about 150.  Research.  David Laibson of Harvard did research which shows that people's ability to make financial decisions declines from somewhere around the age of 53.  And so on.

So, how much does it behoove us to extend our cognitive capacity using tools like social networks, CRM platforms, and new layers we will see continue to built on them over time?  And how much will it hurt us, make us lazy? 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

And so

Tomorrow I sally forth for day 1 of this big test, and then we will dine on rice noodles with ground pork and thai basil, upon which Graham will douse considerable amounts of soy sauce, his favorite food.  And then, day 2.

At that point in time, I will be done with this ordeal for now, and it will be none too soon.  I am about ready to get out of this anchoritic mode here in my study, looking at a full wall of Mary's crap.  Having ground through some 5,000-odd pages of text about financial this and risk management that, and worked through many thousands of individual test items, I'm about done.  And ready to spend my brain looking into things that are intrinsically interesting, as opposed to just useful, maybe.

I'm ready to hit the streets and talk to some damned people.  Much like I was after finishing my dissertation.

Just read through an article about Nick Cave, who's always been a guy I've liked to listen to, from the days of rats in paradise forward, and it portrays a guy with manic energy and discipline to range across genres and basically do whatever felt right.  Sounds good.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Where I'm at

In wind-down mode prepping for the CFP exam on Friday and Saturday.  I don't know how much I've blogged about this.  In some sense, there's not that much to write about.

I have been working in this room, on this hard wooden chair, for most of the last year.  Working through a boring, dreadfully detailed curriculum, building towards this two-day exam.  There is much to complain about, but to do so would be so dreadfully boring.

In recent weeks, I have integrated a bit of a standing desk into the mix, which has been good for my back and my body overall, why didn't I ever think of that.

And now, the exam itself looms, and it's not gonna be easy.  Mostly, I have to make peace with the fact that, though I'm a damned fine test-taker and I've worked hard, it is conceivable that I might fail it, simply due to the vastness and aridness of the subject matter, not unlike the steppes of Siberia or, dare I say it, the Serengeti.  And yes, it is populated by numerous beasts of prey, from the hyenas of trust law to the rhinos of retirement plan selection, to say nothing of the leopards of the miscellaneous itemized deduction phaseouts.

One thing that has kept me more or less sane throughout it all has been 30 Rock, and so it is to them that I now turn for a few yux.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The triple package and the double winner

Reviews of the recent book by Tiger Mom Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld The Triple Package.  The authors argue that the success in America of certain immigrant groups (including the ones to which they conveniently belong) can be explained by 3 shared traits:

  1. A superiority complex
  2. Insecurity
  3. Impulse control
Without going into the merits of her argument -- which has been convincingly savaged elsewhere, it got me thinking a little bit about my own background, which is shared with a lot of other alcoholics and children of alcoholics, known fondly as "double winners."  From growing up in alcoholic households, we inherit a healthy dose of insecurity, because it is, after all, very difficult to compete for parental attention with an addiction.  So you start off feeling very small indeed.

But then, when you get your own bottle and/or other substance of choice, you quite often inherit (and seek to emulate) the grandiosity of your parent, and come to believe that laws of nature don't apply to you.  So smoking, drinking, junk food, not flossing, these things do not touch you.  You are too large.

But, because of your insecurity, you will try hard to charm.  And often you will.

But impulse control, one would think, is a problem for substance abusers, and in some sense it is.  However, impulse and compulsion are very different things.  A pothead does not seek out marijuana in an impulsive manner, but a compulsive one.  And because compulsion is such a strong driver, it crowds out other desires, so one learns to budget.  That $18 entree?  No thank you.  I'll have two $1 slices of pizza, so I'll have money left over for what I really need.

And so, perversely, a double winner can easily develop a surprising discipline which, when combined with the other traits, makes us pretty kick-ass.  The trick is to figure out which ass to kick. Or, rather, not.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Havana Blue

This book by Leonardo Padura has been languishing around my study for weeks now, waiting to be reflected upon.  I don't know where I heard about this Cuban mystery writer, probably the New Yorker or the Times.  Wherever it was, I think the praise was overexuberant.

That said, now that it has stewed a bit, I won't say that I won't keep reading the series.  The guy has a gift for writing about pork with garlic, memories of high school rivalries, and long-simmering lust.  Which are important things.

In fact, it made me reflect upon the fact that these root pleasures are ones that are difficult to take away from people, even in dire circumstances.  We see that as well in Alan Furst's novels of WWII and the period preceding it, where European resistence fighters eat and fuck and snuggle in cold drafty rooms all around the continent, ever mindful of the fact that the next day could be their last.

That said, it would be interesting to see novels analogous to Padura's coming out of North Korea or Rumania in the peak of the Ceausescu era, would we see similar stories?  Now that I think about it, the Rumanian New Wave, from Lucian Pintilie's The Oak forward, which looks backwards at the Ceausescu times, suggests that it is in fact may be possible to squelch even these carnal pleasures. And the literature and films of the concentration camps (with the perhaps singular exception of the must-see The Night Porter) certainly does not trend towards the celebration of food and sex as ways of maintaining a sense of presence in the face of pain.

At any rate, back to Padura, the guy has a gift for conjuring, if not "the real Cuba" -- and even years of detox from literary theory have not made me begin to believe in that -- then certainly a Cuba he knows, loves, and values.  And that's worthwhile.

The mystery part of the book was surprisingly wooden.  But, after all, the mystery novel has long since been a favored way to move a narrator around an environment to let the author write about the latter.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Einstein's Happiest Thought

I took Natalie to see this piece by Adele Myers and Dancers last night at the American Dance Festival.  I remember mom taking me and Leslie to see stuff at the ADF:  Pilobulus, Chuck Davis and the African-American Ensemble, maybe Alvin Ailey, back when we were young.  Sometimes I was like:  WTF?  But I remembered it.  It was different from the other cultural production we were exposed to.  It wasn't on MTV, that's for sure, or American Bandstand.

So Adele Myers and Dancers.  It was a fine introduction to modern dance.  Abstract, but not too abstract.  Pretty at times, but certainly not all the time.  Strong women, not pretending to be happy.  It was great that there were long stretches that were unaccompanied by music, and you could really hear the women breathing hard when they hit resting poses after expending a lot of energy.  They were working hard, and they wanted you to know it. You could see them sweat.

And they had those awesome modern dancer bodies.  Graceful but strong.  Serious.  That was the overall message.  Strong, serious, women, sweating, doing mysterious and abstract things.  What was it about?  That.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Rooting for the favorites

As wonderful as it is to see underdogs play above their heads and challenge favorites (see Algeria-Germany, Switzerland-Argentina etc), if I don't have a bias I am often rooting for the favorite, in my heart of hearts.  Why is this, I wonder?

At first glance you could say that it's a conservative impulse, that I want the established order to triumph, because it provides certainty in an uncertain world.  And maybe there's some of that.

But what I really think/feel is this.  If I like the player, and, for example, in the absence of a lot of negative stories I find it hard not to like Lionel Messi (he's cute, he celebrates goals and victories in a seemingly genuine way), then I want them to succeed.  Or, rather, I want them not to fail, because I identify with them and the burden of expectations that they carry.  I feel bad for them when they fail.

For sure, when someone is eliminated from a major tournament, be it March Madness, Champions League or the World Cup (and those are the only ones I really think of as major), there is a finality to a loss that makes it poignant to watch anyone once they have been eliminated -- excepting those teams and players one can genuinely dislike (Duke, Louisville, Italy, or the Dutch playing the way they played against Spain in 2010).  When you watch a UAB or a or an Algeria or a Ghana get knocked out, it's sad, but you know they played hard and it's a genuine achievement to have been there.

But at the end of the day, I have a mild bias towards the favorite, because I hate to see people fail, because I identify with them too strongly.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Herons getting territorial

Yesterday, while out swimming around dusk, I saw herons chilling on the shore.  This is nothing new, though lovely, and I will say that I don't remember them there back in the 80s. 

 However, for the first time, I saw one swoop in on another and drive it away from the shore. That was something, swimming along, watching one prehistoric looking thing chasing after another with its great loping flight.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the lifeguards down at the lake said that he has observed the herons taking target practice at the floating docks with their mighty heron poop.  That was news.  I had thought that was all goose guano.

This week's Facebook kerfuffle

Everyone is up in arm's about Facebook messing with their emotional lives this week.  As those of you who know me will not be shocked, I am of two minds about this, but really not all that much.

On the one hand, yes, it is not nice of Facebook to deliberately play around with people's emotions.  I get that.  Had someone gone and killed themselves or somebody else while being subject to their feed manipulation, there would have been some kinda lawsuits landing on Zuckie's doorstep.

On the other hand, I suspect that the real issue here is people realizing the extent to which they leave themselves open to emotional influence by Facebook, or by the people we see on Facebook, which is the mirror of ourselves we have constructed there.  Some people look at it a lot, others not so much.  Some people have lots of friends on there, and therefore almost by definition (see Dunbar's Number) , are connected to people they don't know well at all.  Facebook has gained an unprecedented power in people's lives.  Which can be both very very good and very very bad.

There was a great piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning on the "Distraction-Industrial Complex."  In short, the author talks about how not having a broadband connection at home is the greatest boon to his productivity at work and his life at home because he's not being drawn back to his computer screen all the time to do some task he could've gotten done at work or, alternately, to see how the rest of the world is reacting to his most recent wisecrack, or how his high school girlfriend or nemesis is spending vacation.

I think there's a lot of truth to this.  I have to really try to limit my time on Facebook.  I try not to pay too much attention to my blog traffic, though I totally know what it is.

I recently read about a mutual fund manager who models himself on Buffett who has built a no-distraction room at his office.  No phone, internet, what have you, where he can go in and read and think.  We all need and crave that.  Everybody who exercises cites as a benefit to be unconnected from all the hullabaloo to be calm and think about stuff.

But it's hard to get there, because connection and attention are like crack.

In the end, re Facebook, I gotta quote Gogol:  don't blame the mirror if your mug is crooked.

But now, back to the coalmine.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hard travelin

 Apologies for the radio silence, I've been working hard.  Just spent 4 days camped out at the Westin by the Atlanta airport, doing a review course for my upcoming CFP exam in July.  Friday thru Monday, in class from 8 to 6 or so, getting lectured by an old dude who, truth be told, did a pretty amazing job bringing dry material to life.

At the hotel, there was an anime convention.  Lots of kids roaming the halls with pink, green, grey, blue hair, in costumes.  One time I came out of a toilet stall and did a double take.  There was a person in a little blue dress at the sink, and a 4-year old girl right there too.  And I thought, "am I in the wrong bathroom?"  I needn't have worried, just a little innocent cross-dressing/role-playing.

It was kind of nice, all these kids who must have been pretty much wierdos at their own high schools, but here very much in with peers.  And excited they were.  I have never been in a louder hotel.  Until 2 in the morning on Saturday night, a bunch of misfits roaming the halls making noise.  Which is kind of nice indeed, except when you're trying to sleep.  I had the misfortune of being near the elevator, quite near to the atrium, which was like bedlam.  When I went back to my room around 10 or so, a bunch of them were sitting in a little semi-circle over in the area near the soda machines.  I kid you not.

And so last night, when it was all done, I got in my car and drove the hell on back to Chapel Hill.  Almost 400 miles it was.  Starting at 4:45.  Towards the tail end of it I was pretty freaking tired, and the only thing to do was to have a little singalong.

Now, I'm not usually a fan of live albums mixed through the sound board.  And Neko Case's "Live from Austin" is very much that.  You can barely hear the drums, the base is pretty  distant.  It's pretty much a little strumming, electric guitar, and her voice.  But since her voice is something I am coming to regard as a national treasure, that ain't bad.  I made it home.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I-85 to Atlanta

Awaits me.  Oh, the thrill of it.  Hopefully interesting details will emerge.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Gone surfin...

Sorry to have been so slow to post of late.  Have been deep in the bowels of studying for an upcoming milestone, getting ready for CFP Board exam in mid-July.

As for this weekend... we'll see.  Headed to the beach.  First time in 5 years.  Must protect my fair-skinned family.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Phillips graduation

Natalie had her "promotion" ceremony at Phillips today, and while it was lovely, and she got a nice little honor, I must say that my overall reaction was thumbs down to the whole concept of such a ceremony.  There is high school to come yet, plenty of time for anxiety and strutting and competition and the like.

Mostly it called up all kinds of insane competitive instincts in me.  So much so that when one of the people I was sitting next to found out I went to Phillips and CHHS, she asked me:  "do you know Jimmy Smith (not his real name)?" and I said "yes, in fact, he's the last person I got into an actual fight with, here at Phillips.  I whacked him in the head for no good reason at all when we were in 7th grade just because he was skinnier than me and I knew he couldn't beat me up."

Now, all of that is 100% true, and it is something that I have discussed with "Jimmy" subsequently, when I was apologizing to him about it many years later.  But why is that the first thing that comes out of my mouth?  I could have said, "yeah, Jimmy, he's a great guy."  Which is just as true.

I was just in that zone again.  Middle school. The zone of puberty, deep insecurity, acne, and letting the burdens of the elementary school years of unmediated geekdom rise out of me by sometimes violent means.

Gotta go.  Sitting in this chair too much.  My butt hurts.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Loving the character

After lunch yesterday at Foster's I passed by the window at Flyleaf Books and saw a big blown up cover of Claire Messud's most recent book, which I have reviewed already. And it took me back to that book and, indeed, The Emperor's Children.  While each of them is a tour de force in its own way, somehow they seem hollower to me then the first of Claire's two novellas in her earlier book, The Hunters.  "A Simple Tale" tells the story of a Maria, a Ukrainian immigrant to Canada who works her ass off and has a son whom she loves, only to be gravely disappointed when he turns into a lout and marries a nitwit.

What's the difference between them, in my recollection?  The fact that I sensed that she actively loved Maria, whereas the characters in her more recent books are more technical achievements.  She may identify with them, and seek to make the reader do the same (and do a good job of it), but I didn't feel like she cared about the character in the same way.  For someone who spent years of his life studying literary criticism and theory, it's funny to me to find myself falling back on this way of assessing things, but that's where I'm at.  Almost certainly I need to go back and reread the earlier book, but then there are so many other good ones clamoring for my attention.

This, combined with the fact that I had to turn off Tarantino's Django Unchained the other night because I was just repulsed by the gratuitous violence, is yet another indication that I am either aging or maturing, depending on your point of view.  The worst thing about sticking that movie back in its little envelope was having to admit that Mary had been right all along and we probably shouldn't have started watching it at all, but one of the difficult things about being married is having to admit that your spouse is right, all too often.  Sigh.

On the subject of aging and its impact on apprehension, I remember Edward Said, already sick with cancer, lecturing on the concept of "lateness" in art and drawing in Beethoven's later work as an example.  I remember him doing it, but I have zero recollection of what he said. I recently checked some of Beethoven's late piano sonatas out of the library and I must admit, they are quite distinct from his earlier ones. Proto-modern, moving away from lush melodiousness towards analytical coldness.  Moving in the opposite direction to where I'm going as I age, as I progressively reject the dissonance and abstraction of modernism and move towards stuff that makes me feel good and/or laugh.

For example, Talladega Nights.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Dreaming of cars

The other night, just before waking, I had an anxiety dream that I had gone and made an impulse purchase of a sporty compact, maybe a VW or something like a Honda Civic tricked out for performance, but I hadn't told Mary.  And then, being impatient with the slow delivery of my order, I went into some other store (and in the universe of this dream, I could basically snap up a car on my credit card) and was buying another, wondering if I was going to end up with two of them.

And, in the back of my mind, I knew that I didn't really need a new car at all, because the Volvo was still fine, although there is a small issue with the fabric on the underside of the sunroof hanging down and looking crappy.  I really need to get to Ace or Lowe's to get a fabric adhesive to help with that.

So yeah, I was nervous that I was blowing $ on car(s) I didn't need, without telling Mary, which is exactly the kind of crap my dad pulled all the time.  He'd just show up with a 240Z or a custom Toyota convertible or an Alpha Romeo Spider and say to my mom: "Check this out."

And then, yesterday, towards the end of my run yesterday, I saw this little British racing green sports car being sold by the owner for $5500.  I though it was a mid-60s Triumph of some sort, but really it was a Datsun 510.  It was pretty badassed.  I kept running.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More bragging on my daughter -- and reflections thereupon (you knew there had to be more)

So I chanced to open a bulk email from the middle school principal, as I rarely do, and there I saw results of some competition.  Without bragging too hard, it turns out that Natalie has overachieved in another domain, doing something that is in line with the 90th percentile of high school juniors and seniors nationwide.  While she was in 7th grade.  And coming in the top 3% of a competitive hoard of kids her age.

And we perhaps didn't recognize quite how exceptional her results were when she achieved them. Though we did praise her, to be sure.

Then again, there is a danger that we overfocus on praising her academic results.  We certainly do not want her thinking that our love is dependent on them.  Finding time and means to communicate well with ones teenagers is not simple, it's a universal problem, and it's compounded in households like our own where one of the kids has a technical "special need," whereas the other is just special in the same way that all of us are.

And, as I've posted here recently, I'm well aware that Natalie works really hard, sometimes verging on too hard, to excel, at times I fear to the detriment of her social life.  But even there, I have to be careful not to project my own insecurity onto her.  I think that when I was younger, I somehow perceived that "popularity" was important, so I worked hard on that front as well, to have bunches of friends. And sometimes I'd do stupid shit to be friends with lots of folx, just to outperform in that domain as well.  Whatevs.  It's all good.