Monday, January 15, 2018

Positive and negative

Graham and I are now alternating Deep Space 9 one night with The Blacklist the other. Actually, we are ending up watching The Blacklist more often, kind of because it is the shiny thing, kind of because James Spader is somewhat irresistible in the role of Readington, though the rest of the cast is pretty much from generic multi-ethnic casting 2018. Not that they are bad, it's just they are who and what they are.

I have framed this as "positive" vs. "negative" viewing, as DS9 typically ends up affirming our belief in humankind or, to be more precise, humanoidkind, whereas the Blacklist can get pretty durned dark. There is often a fair amount of killing. However, as Graham has pointed out, the last couple of episodes of DS9 got a little dark. There was indeed some murder, though it was in the end committed by a Vulcan who was annoyed at pictures of people laughing with friends, which is more or less understandable. And Spader is just a lark.

So, in the end, it is by no means black and white.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Early rising

Awoke early this morning, earlier than usual on a Saturday. In the run-up to our event a couple of weeks out, Mary re-initiated the theme of "I have to do everything" (pertaining to getting the house ready) and I got a little miffed. The depth of her lack of understanding of what I do, of what it takes to run our household, outside of the obvious, physical tasks (yardwork, cleaning, cooking, etc.) never ceases to astound me.

To wit, I endured a proctological exam from Yale this week concerning the financial details of running our household. The amount of money we spend, without doing much that looks expensive, is pretty astounding. Putting it in their buckets (they had a bucket for haircuts and toiletries but not for home maintenance) was a lot of work. They were obviously interested in the lumpiness of my income. Building a business as a small businessperson is a hard fucking thing. It takes a lot of effort over time to become sustainable.

So I am tired, it is Saturday, and it was not my intent to be up quite this early. But here I am, ready to greet the day. Now that I am drinking some coffee, it will get better.

I'm excited to meet with mom and a couple of people from the Orange County Democrats later about trying to flip Person County in the state legislature this fall. The county went 57-40 for Trump in 2016, a margin of less than 4,000 votes. It should, in principle, be doable.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The early daze

I've been reading Richard Ford's Between Them, about his parents and his memories of growing up. Good, but not his best work. Certainly not worth $26 for the slim hardcover.

It got me thinking about the kids' early years, and the function of this blog, which was partly intended to be a scratchpad for the experience of raising them. So I started looking over some of the early posts. Sadly, there wasn't as much direct description of being with the kids as I would have liked. Much of it was just me rambling. Hopefully if I read on into 2005, 2006, 2007, I'll find more about the kids.

Certainly the blog came to late to capture the early memories of Natalie, who was north of 4 by the time I got started. So it missed out on precious things like how when I would read her Green Eggs and Ham, she pretty quickly got so she could fill in the end of every line.

As in:
(Clark) "I do not like" (Natalie) "green eggs and ham,"
(Clark) "I do not like them" (Natalie) "Sam I am!"

She got to this point pretty durned fast. It was beautiful to see.

Recently Graham has been joining me in late afternoon walks, as I try to make sure he does something with his body on any given day. Today we went all the way around the lake for a second time.  Today he told me that, in telling him the story of my own complicated career path, in which I resented my mom pressuring me to become an economist, he had discerned vague pressure from me for him to become an economist. I assured him that I meant to put no pressure on him at all, and told him that it was great he could tell me that (as indeed it is).

The odd thing is that he would have heard that message at all. We have to be very careful in how we communicate with our kids, even when we are just trying to be open.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Labor market growing pains

In a number of contexts (dealing with our broker/dealer, at lunch sandwich place, at a Starbucks, at our pharmacy) I am seeing service standards slip of late, new employees who don't seem to know exactly what they are doing. This is generally reflective of growing pains as people enter/re-enter the job market. As consumers, we must be mindful and tolerant of this.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Miles and miles

After months and months of procrastinating, I finally went through my drive tracking app and classified all of my drives for the year as business or personal, for tax reasons. A couple of high-level observations. First off, I drove fewer miles for business this year then I did last year. My initial inclination was to chide myself for slacking off. But then I realized that I had in fact driven a lot of those miles with family members in the car, that it was a good year for hanging with the family, and that that of course is an excellent thing.

Still, there was an awful lot of toing and froing. 6 trips to the Northeast, 2 to the West coast, plus jaunts to DC, Georgia, Greenville, SC, Charlotte. But none to the beach or NC mountains, which is kind of a waste.

It is good that I have spent a fair amount of time here on this couch away from home, including some napping. I need one of these bad boys in my study.

Closing thoughts

Having breakfast yesterday with my friend, he characterized himself as despondent over the political situation, and I was reminded of what Anna told Mary a month or so back, when they were having a glass of wine while Josh and I joined a bunch of dedicated grey Tigers watching our boys bring the soccer state championship back to its rightful home at CHHS. Anna said that Josh always maintains his optimism, even when the Republican legislature cuts him and Roy off at the knees continually, with bullshit like a 40% budget reduction on the flimsiest of grounds.

This kind of optimism in the face of adversity is hard to maintain, but it is the only way to be, because if we allow ourselves to get dragged down into the mire, we won't get out and make shit happen. Doug Jones was a great victory, but it is only the start. 2018 needs to be a big year. And it ain't just gonna happen.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Settling in

Wrapping up the day here on this most excellent couch, a fine day.

  • Breakfast with my boy Dave Berck at the Nautilus Diner
  • QC'd a last couple of college essays for Natalie, who insists on applying to a few more schools, for some reason I don't fully get
  • Ran my mom out to LaGuardia, encountering very little traffic
  • Went for a run in the bitter fucking cold, so as to justify my dessert, a pretzel cupcake that Natalie had made with her cousin Sadie. Sadie distracted Natalie with her constant patter, so that Natalie accidentally put in a whole stick of butter when two tablespoons were called for. Perhaps the best mistake ever
  • Graham and I watched not one but two episodes of The Blacklist

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Late night in Manhattan

Yesterday found us out late in Manhattan, late, that is for us. After a comped dinner at the Roxy in Tribeca (oysters, mussels, and some delish trout for the Grouse), we went downstairs to a small cinema where a special showing of Amadeus had been arranged, after which Mary's sister Beth (who played Mozart's wife) went onstage and answered questions with some other dude who had been involved with the movie. It was great to see the film again, and fun to see Beth being the center of attention, as she has dedicated her life over the last couple of decades to some pretty hard-core momming, but the whole shebang wasn't over till something like midnight. Which is frickin late for the Grouse, particularly when he has been feasting.

But it was all good nonetheless, and good for Natalie to be out in the evening checking out some cool Manhattan shit. There was a jazz quartet in the restaurant when we were eating, and they were tight. Then there was a little speakeasy downstairs next to the movie theater where there was another jazz band playing and couples were dancing very old school. Which is to say, stuff you don't see in the suburbs all the time, the magic of the big city. Good for a teenager who is headed out into the world soon.

I was, nonetheless, sad to have had to rush through dinner at the end and not gotten a chance to sample the chocolate pecan pie. I kept thinking about it. Shit, I'm still thinking about it.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Layers of China

Reading Qui Xialong's Red Mandarin Dress. I was about to note something, but then checked and see that I have made the same point here in reference to an earlier novel of his.

My point was, basically, that everything in his novels seems to take place between layers of reference: to class, history (especially the Cultural Revolution), and classical Chinese literature, or more modern culture referring back to the latter. Everything is somehow refracted.

I would say as well that in Peter Hessler's work, especially Oracle Bones, this same impression is present, namely that all of Chinese daily life is somehow tied up with the past, both immediate and distant. I guess that's true of life here too, we just experience it differently because it is the water within which we swim. I guess the question would have to be whether this impression is an effect of my distance from Chinese culture, or it is somehow peculiar to and tied up with it.

(Reading on, a couple of days later, it occurs to me that I am just in a sense dusting off the whole concept of intertextuality here, the idea that we are all always ("always already", as we were once wont to say) living in and through a set of texts. This is all too clear to me, sitting here in Larchmont on the couch, gazing at George Sr's walls of bios of Churchill and JFK and books about the Great War, while Graham at the foot of the couch scrolls through endless Web discourse about the alternate worlds that capture his undying fancy. The theoretically-inclined humanists were on to something deep, they have just failed to sell it well and convincingly, and it is all too easily forgotten from deep within The Struggle to propagate our class and assure our children's place within it).

Who the heck knows? It's a cold and grey day outside, and mostly I'm just happy to be here on this Larchmont couch, truly one of my happy places, looking out at the Long Island Sound, after a brutal day picking our way up the 95 corridor yesterday.

Time to put this infernal laptop down.

Friday, December 15, 2017

VHS day

Natalie got into Yale. Hooray!

It has been a long haul. She has always been an exceptional girl, then young lady, and we knew she would do well, but because she has no patents or start-ups under her belt, something like this was no shoe-in. She did the leg work, and it happened.

So via John and Hank Green, she had turned me onto the Mountain Goats, which until then had been one of those Durham bands that I didn't have time to pay attention to. But I started listening to some of their stuff and watching the videos on YouTube, and came across this one.


And I was listening to it yesterday evening, after she had told me she got in, and I just started crying, and I think the reason is this: for me, high school was war, and Yale was victory. It was a rear-guard war, to be sure, making up for the earlier years when I had buck teeth, was scrawny as fuck and, yes, people were mean to me. I don't think I was a nasty warrior, unless you were a forward trying to bring the ball down my wing and I wasn't able to cleanly out accelerate you and take the ball when you lost control of your dribble. If I had to take you down, you knew it was war. Other than that, it was all pretty civilized.

But make no mistake, at some very basic level, it was war.

To the best of my knowledge, Natalie didn't have to put up with that much after an initial mean girl episode back in 6th grade, the moment she pivoted away from a set of girls who would go on to become "popular," when she took up with another crowd of gentler and geekier ones.

But she worked her ass off, almost always with a smile. And now, like me, she got in early, and can enjoy Christmas and consider whether she wants to apply to other schools.

For me, once the war was over, I took a couple of years of R & R, didn't necessarily utilize the institution as best I might have. Part of me was still fighting, not unlike those Japanese guys on the islands out in the Pacific. Hopefully, she won't have to do that. I don't think she will, and perhaps that is what in the end, was so moving.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The fall of the questions

Over lunch the other day, Niklaus and I were talking about the fall of the humanities, and to a lesser extent the fall of social sciences, in the hierarchy of the academy. The disciplines aren't attractive, kids don't want to study them like they used to.

There are a lot of factors leading to where we are. Partly it's a function of the apotheosization of technology and money. These are things that get people excited. It's also fear driven. First globalization, now automation have greatly complicated careers. The sands are always shifting under our feet, change is accelerating, so everyone rightly worries about our childrens' futures. How will they take care of themselves in a future we can barely imagine? So we nudge everything towards the disciplines that seem to promise money, power, and a greater ability to surf through the growing swells of history.

But we cannot escape the big problems and questions that face us?  As the world's population expands and competition for resources heats up, how do we structure ourselves locally, nationally, and internationally to provide for a balance of growth and distribution of wealth? What is due to those whose jobs get automated away, those for whom the only jobs left seem to be concentrated in low status fields (food service, logistics, health care positions other than "doctor"?). These are not simple questions, there are moral and ethical components to them as well as technical components (how to manage organizations). One thing is for certain: they will not teach the answers to them in coding bootcamps.

These are the kind of things the humanities and social sciences should helping people think about, by helping us learn to frame questions and ponder how they interact with our values, whatever they are, but these disciplines got sucked into discursive battles about who could use more arcane jargon to talk about different aspects of this or that theoretical question, much of it revolving around identity politics of one sort or another. Not that it has all been bad, important questions have been raised, some good things have happened. But the soft side of the academy needs to broaden its focus and raise its game.

Or people like Atul Gawande, a doctor who has thought deeply about what he does, his values, and how physicians add to the world, will keep eating our lunch. Not that I would not be delighted to buy him lunch. Would love to.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Xmas tree

We went and got our Christmas tree yesterday. As usual, we arrived at the tree vendor location without our stand. This time, I hustled home and got it while my beloved family stood outside in the cold and picked out a tree. They did a good job.

This was just as well. The afternoon had been passed in other quasi family-friendly activities like assembling this credenza that Mary had ordered from CB2. The evil geniuses at IKEA have apparently influenced furniture retailing in many unfortunate ways, first and foremost that many places now ship furrniture in flat packs to be put together at home. I got Graham to help me on this, thinking it would be a good "son-father activity" (his phrase, not mine). In principle, this was true, and it gave me the opportunity to train him on following directions.

That part more or less went fine. The problem is that real pieces of furniture are now designed to be idiot-proof in assembly, using nothing more than a Phillips-head screwdriver. Great. Problem is, the furniture doesn't really come together very well, it feels like it's going to come apart. There was some cursing involved.

Then Graham and I walked all the way around the lake and I explained some of the basics of finance to him, how much money people really need to retire, etc. How much money people in our neighborhood have, and/or need to have. He asked really good questions, it all flowed rather naturally.

By now, I have digressed more than I meant to, and time is getting short. Back to the main point.

So we get the tree home, eat dinner, and then it was time to decorate it. I am all-too conscious of the fact that this is Natalie's last Christmas at home, and I'm not going to pretend I'm happy about it. Far from it. I am sad. I am happy she is doing so well, and know that she will go on to excellent things in life, but I am not excited about her leaving.

After dinner she goes back to her room to work on her essay for Cornell, which we had been discussing over dinner. We get the tree vertical in the stand, put the lights on, all the time telling her it's time to come out and start putting on ornaments.

In recent years, it is true, the kids have shown incrementally less enthusiasm for decorating the tree, I get that. But this year is different. Natalie's refusal to come out was making me grumpy and cranky.

Finally, she came out, cheery, and helped us put the ornaments on. Then she got her laptop and sat on the couch and looked at it. I settled in to the other side of the couch and started reading something, then was sleepy. It was 10 pm already, after all.  All was well, for now at least.

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Grey day

It is grey and wet. And Saturday. I continue to try to sell the Subaru. Robert passed on it, as seemingly, will Bobby, but Rob is interested. If he passes, I should probably figure out someone named Bob to call, because I am seeing a pattern. Or perhaps and need an Ulrich or Bartholomew. But this puppy is gonna sell, I know that for sure, because she runs sweet and smooth, with all the money I've put into her. Scroll down for deets.

Mary and I started watching the Netflix documentary about Jim Carrey getting deep into character as Andy Kaufman from back when they made Man on the Moon in '98 or so. It is very funny, pretty intense. But the conceit is pretty wierd. Carrey basically embodies the character for the duration of the filming, and becomes just as wierd as Kaufman was (and, we will note, Andy is one of the three Kaufmans who serves as inspiration for the Grouse). But he's a pretty disruptive force, and he's up there on the set with some pretty solid talent, first and foremost Danny DeVito. What he does is basically unprofessional. If you had actors roaming around Hollywood sets refusing to come out of character, playing pranks all the time, you'd basically never get anything done. We'd have no movies. So, in the end, it is very much about Jim Carrey being a primadonna. We only watched the first half. They may get around to discussing this point by the second half of the movie.

OK. Time to hustle downstairs and get Graham out the door to martial arts.


Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Pre-judging

I was at an AA meeting recently, and this younger white guy was speaking/leading the group. Heavily muscled, lots of tattoos, crewcut.  I naturally assumed, first and foremost "Trump voter." Then he started talking. He grew up in a rough neighborhood up north, one of "16 or 17 brothers and sisters." That's right, if I heard him correctly, he wasn't sure how many siblings he had. Their grandfather had sexually abused lots of them. Of course there was lots of drinking. If he got in a fight and came home and hadn't one, he got his ass kicked again. Eventually he goes into the military, had a horrific injury, spends a lot time convalescing, drinks, gets in fights....

The details don't really matter that much (for the purposes of this blog that is). And I need to preserve the guy's anonymity. The point is he had gone through an incredible amount of fucked up shit, he went to the military because it was his best path out, then sacrificed a lot on my behalf (even if I don't necessarily believe in the rationale for the war he was in. His story was powerful, he was another human being trying to move forward. His politics didn't matter in that context. It would be interesting to know where he stands, but in there I can't care, and I have to recognize it's all on a continuum.

Then, on Sunday, I was taking Graham to Wal-Mart, I saw a white guy driving a big white truck. Immediately my mind ran to "Trump voter." Then I saw that he had an African-American woman in the seat next to him. The plot thickened.

It ain't simple.


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Another day at the office

The Republicans have passed their tax bill, and Michael Flynn has pled guilty and seems likely to flip even further.  On the one hand, there is lots of teeth gnashing and hair pulling on Democrats' part.  On the other, schadenfreude.

Neither is helpful nor what we need. The tax bill is incremental in its changes, and can be reversed. Its just another piece of legislation. If anything, it gives Democrats something very concrete to campaign on beyond just "we hate Trump."

Re Flynn, we have to be careful with our "I told you so"ism, because the Republicans and alt-right have developed a finely-honed game of "whataboutism."

Instead, we need to recognize where we have failed to substantively connect with a broad swathe of voters, and more importantly, be honest about what has not worked in our policies. The latter is, admittedly, difficult, because much of what has been imperfect in our policies (public schools, welfare and other wealth transfer mechanisms, affirmative action) can be legitimately put down to deep seated resistance and not-so-far from the surface racism, sexism, etc.

The arc of history is long and bends mysteriously. We have to admit that we are imperfect and recognize the wishes of the other side, even as we are utterly befuddled by their having voted for that vile jackass. They saw something in him that made all of his faults tolerable, if we fail to recognize that and try to channel it, we are lost.

Remember the exit polls. It was not just white males. 32% of latino men and 25% of latino women voted for Trump. 52% of white women. It blows our minds, but it is so.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Return from the dead

Tomorrow I will return to work, after almost a week of staying at the house, more or less, first with a cold, then with a holiday, then more or less pretending to have a cold.

Things have been piling up. A lead I thought was dead has come back to life. I need to sell a car (to wit, a 2008 Subaru Outback with 96k miles, a new

  1. clutch [yes -- a stick shift]
  2. head gasket
  3. timing belt, and 
  4. front brakes).
    Tell all your friends!
With the possibility of a tax bill passing looming ever closer, there are things that some clients should do between now and the end of the year to protect themselves.

There are leaves on the roof, and in the yard.

Graham and I need to go out and procure tacky Christmas sweater for a themed party we plan to attend in a couple of weeks.

And then we head North. Come to think of it, I need to call Princeton to make sure our plans for stopping in fit with theirs.

In short, many things I have been deferring are piling up and need to be dealt with, which doesn't really excite me. For some reason, I have rather enjoyed lounging about on the couch, reading a mystery novel (Sebastien Japrisot's A Rather Long Engagement), even if, truth be told, I am also ready for this novel to come to a close.

Alright, enough whining. It is almost noon, time to embrace the day.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fighting off the demons of reading material

To my left, an article, almost completed. On an adjacent tab, another. Books on the bedstead behind me. Stacks of New Yorkers to be combed through and discarded on my chest of drawers. Along with other books. The need to read is a constant treadmill for me. Everywhere I turn, something to read.  And yet, I have a blog to feed and tend, becuase ain't nobody gonna write it for me.

I have been fighting off a cold all week leading up to Thanksgiving, and it seems to be 80-90% gone away by now. Which I guess means that I will have to go exercise later. But I have been lying on the couch reading a novel for much of it, and it's a good thing too, because the most vibrant colors of the season are dropping from the trees as we speak. Soon, the trees will be bare, but it has been a great week to spend on the couch looking out at the trees and the lake.

And then hanging with the family. In fact, even as I type, I realize I need to call up Leslie quick and try to make a plan to get together before she and her crew head to the airport, especially because Graham would really like to play chess with his cousin Daniel before they head out. It has been a fine few days of traditional cousin activities: puzzles, card games, meals, silly YouTube videos, hiding behind trees on the family's traditional walk in the woods behind the UNC Botanical Gardens, etc. Just a few hours left. Daniel is a true trooper for hanging with Graham as much as he does. Thankfully, as they age, they are getting closer in age on a relative, if not absolute basis.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving rambles

I had a bunch of frequent flyer miles that I needed to use up for something before they timed out, so they were pushing magazines on me, which are presumably prized still as advertising delivery media to desirable demographics. We ended up getting Inc, Fast Company, and some cooking mag for Mary that hasn't come yet. The first two just started coming yesterday.

I started pawing through Fast Company, and immediately all this stuff from the YouTube and other social media/tech universe was flashing before my eyes (esp. "What's Inside" on YouTube, a big hit), things and dynamics I was entirely unaware of. Then I fired up my phone, and I had a friend request from some "woman in Nebraska" with whom I had one common friend (who appears not to have checked her out). The woman from Nebraska appears suspiciously to look like a spoofed feed of a teenagish guy from Mali with a penchant for taking pictures of himself in front of luxury cars making some sign with his hand which is probably the Malian way of saying "I'm cool."  All of his friends give him likes and commend him with comments like "Cest tres coooooool, mon frere," with various words in African languages interspersed. I won't try to spoof them.

There were also quotes from the Koran on "her" page in Arabic, and links to "Candidates of Paradise of Firdawsi", which appears to be an Islamic propaganda/proselytizing feed. Nothing explicitly terrorist, mind you. But there was an interesting post on there about how there is no airport in Mecca, and how birds and airplanes cannot fly above the Kaaba, because it is the gravitational and magnetic center of the universe, and therefore nothing can fly above it, even if it wanted to. And somebody commented on that, in French, saying how it was idiocy and made muslims look stupid. And then people argued with the commenter, saying of course the Kaaba was the center of the universe....

It is astonishing how much is going on in the world, how impossible it is to take it all in, and adjudicate it all and figure out what's what. William James, I think, was the first to coin the term "the pluriverse." Ultimately we must all recur to some sort of core, bedrock faith in some sort of principles to help us sort it all out.

The fragmentation of the media landscape via social media does not help. It underscores the need for leadership at the very highest level. Blah blah blah

Despite a lingeriing cold, it is time to get organized to go out for the traditional Thanksgiving activities, including walking over by Morgan Creek and the traditional eating.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Flashback

We were married in '97. We were headed to Italy for our honeymoon, but had to fly through London and spend the night there. I don't know why, but we did. It was the early days of the internet, before Google Maps or really any good maps, so I called up a travel agent to book at hotel near the airport in London, and she booked me a room. So far, so good.

Or so I thought. When we landed in London, we got in a cab to go to our hotel, and the cabbie hauls off. We go like 10-15 minutes, I'm watching the meter, we're on a big highway, and I ask the guy:  "Isn't this hotel close to the airport?" He responds, "No, not at all, it's downtown."  Now, mind you, I had like 10 pounds or something -- and it was before credit cards were accepted in all cabs -- and I just went ballistic. I broke out all the big words: "Rackem, frackem, b#*!#t" and then some, and the cabby gets really mad at me "Now sir, there's no reason to use foul language here in my cab!"  He was from somewhere in Asia, and was apparently a good deal more religious than I was.

In any case, I calmed down. He hung a uey, took us back towards the airport to another hotel from the same chain where at first they said they didn't have a room and then they somehow figured out that they did. The cabby accepted some combination of pounds and dollars, and my apology.

After Mary went to bed, I went downstairs to have a cigarette, and I noticed that the sign, while using recognizably English words, was barely comprehensible. Something about no parking or something.

The honeymoon was on.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Checking in

It has been an uncharacteristically long time since my last post. In the interim, what has been going on?

  • Fundraisers for Graig Meyer, Floyd McKissick, and the SKJAJA fund
  • A going-away party for Lindsay Graham (no, not that one) of Car Pal and Saxapahaw fame
  • Big Data and Life Sciences event at NC BioTech Center
  • Lake Forest Association annual meeting (it passed bloodlessly)
  • Tennis with Z (no comment on outcome)
  • Several client reviews
Through all of this, Graham and I have maintained our steady diet of Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episodes. I looked at my timeline on the most famous of social networks, which shall remain nameless here, and saw that we wrapped up our viewing of Star Trek: Next Generation on January 20.  We have now watched six seasons of DS 9, so 156 episodes over ten months, so one every other day or thereabouts. We have achieved this momentous accomplishment despite deaths in the family, business and pleasure travel, work, school, all manner of impediments. This shows what one can do if one sets one's priorities correctly and keeps one's eye on the ball.

Much of this has been accomplished on our new couch. Recently, Mary put this very soft brown striped alpaca blanket that we bought in support of our neighbor Chadd's non-profit Teachers 2 Teachers International. They do very good work setting up peer-to-peer partnerships between US educators and those in the developing world. You should check them out.

More importantly, the blanket is exceptionally cozy. Graham sits under a grey fleece blanket, and I use the alpaca one, because he is too tall now for us to share one blanket. Often, I start dozing off during the episode, but I still hear the dialog. Also, after Graham leaves, the accumulated warmth on the couch persists, and sometimes I hang out and snooze a little.

Even Natalie, climbing in under Graham's blanket to watch an episode of Stranger Things with me and mom, recognized the exceptional coziness of Graham's set up. This is good livin.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The big stall

Listening to Ben Sasse's book on the way to a conference this morning, began pondering the much-ballyhooed stalling of median incomes since the early 70s. Began to ponder: is this in some sense reflective of an aggregate, homeostatic lack of desire for higher incomes? I.e. if one gets on the "hedonic treadmill" north of ~$75k of income, are we really dealing with broad problem of abundance, not scarcity?

As a society, in the West at least, we generate enough wealth to give everybody a decent life. But we don't know how to balance wealth generation and wealth distribution. People are geared to want more, more, more, both status and wealth. Deciding when you have enough and when to slow down is hard. And then what do you do with yourself? The cultural model tells us to eat better, live more fancily, travel more, but people don't get happier by doing these things, beyond a point. And we haven't discovered effective mechanisms for redistributing wealth via the public sector. Or at least we don't promote them well enough.

Again, we get back to the question of values and leadership. If more public-spirited behavior was validated more broadly and more convincingly, people would do more of it. But these values don't sell stuff.