My Personal Total Solar Eclipse

Of the mechanically inclined, we say “He’s/She’s good with his/her hands.” For some reason though, of the mechanically disinclined, we don’t say, “He’s bad with his hands.”

But if the shoe fits. You can say I’m bad with my hands because it’s true. My excuse is I was the youngest son, meaning whenever something needed fixing, Older Brother 1 or 2 took care of it. I have a lot of friends who didn’t grow up learning trades, but they’re naturals, totally renovating their houses. “Just watch a YouTube video,” they say.  I use YouCanTooTube to replace air and cabin filters, but it’s little help when attempting intermediate or advanced fixes.

Today I did my first triathlon of the season, swim-cycle-mow/edge. I used to continually fight my gas edger because it would unspool and I’d repeatedly take it apart with a screwdriver and slowly rewind it until it unspooled again. Then God looked upon me with favor, by which I mean I went electric. The electric edger never unspooled and life improved immeasurably.

Today, two years later, I ran out of line in the middle of my landscaping handiwork. Then it happened. Something as rare as a total solar eclipse.

As I retreated to the garage I wondered, “How am I going to fuck this up?” Then I flipped open the manual to the exact right page. An omen.

I lined up the hash marks so the eyelets were even, measured and cut 15 feet of line as instructed, inserted it into the eyelets so that each side was the same length, wound it up, and cut it off so that each side was exactly five inches long. Back in business in a few minutes.

I forgive you for thinking, “This is simple shit. What a sad sack for celebrating re-spooling his edger.” But everything is relative. When it comes to home repairs, the Cleveland Browns win more often than me. If my sad sackness makes you feel better about how good you are with your hands, I’m happy to contribute to the self esteem boost. One day, two accomplishments.

 

We Kid Ourselves

We tend to exaggerate our importance to our workplaces. The longer someone has been at a job, the more inclined they are to think they’re irreplaceable. In actuality, after I leave my job, and you leave yours, things will be just fine.

I realize that because I’ve been thinking about how many times my co-workers mention the three people who have left for other jobs or retired in the last couple of years. The harsh reality of it is hardly ever. The saying “Gone, but not forgotten,” doesn’t jive with my experience.

 

A Nobel Prize Economist Thinks People Are Fat Because They’re Poor

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Dear Paul,

Normally, I’m down with your writing, but this particular twitter stream of yours makes liberalism an easy target. People, whatever their economic standing, have some agency. I must be a bad liberal because I do not believe there’s a vast Republican, capitalist conspiracy preventing the poor from walking, riding bicycles, and passing on fast food if they choose. But then again, I’ve never won a Nobel Prize.

Sincerely yours,

Ron

Very Good Sentences

From Rachel Sherman’s, Uneasy Street: The Anxieties of Affluence.

“A more egalitarian distribution of resources across communities (national or otherwise) can be defended as a morally better form of social organization because it benefits more people and, ultimately, society as a whole. But advancing such a perspective is still no easy task. Wealthy people tend to resist giving up their short-term advantages, and their outsize political and media power means that they disproportionately control both the terms and the outcomes of the debates on these issues.”

Next, I think I’ll chip away at The New Yorker mountain that has formed over the last few months. Speaking of which, it’s not every day I get to say that a colleague and friend has a poem in The New Yorker. Such a brilliant writer.

On Tact and Diplomacy

News alert, we live in hyper-partisan times. Because so many people are on edge, tact and diplomacy are at a premium. The Right refers to this as “political correctness”, I think of it as civility.

When it comes to your thoughts though, I’m happy to report that you still have unlimited freedom. It’s perfectly fine for extremist conservative or liberal or anarchist or whatever thought to percolate between your ears. You may even be so bold as to journal about all of your wonderfully extremist thoughts.

We have daily reminders though of the costs of letting those thoughts bubble out without much consideration for how they are going to be received by others. Think of those as “What was he or she thinking?” moments. The answer of course is they were not, at least not enough.

During this morning’s run, I listened to a National Public Radio story titled “Olympia Braces For Change, But Some Homeowners Aren’t Thrilled”.

The story in short:

“Leaders in Olympia are trying to adapt to changing demographics and make room for an influx of new residents, but their plan is rankling some homeowners.

City leaders are considering changes to zoning across roughly two-thirds of the city that would allow for more of what they call “missing middle” housing in single-family neighborhoods.

That ‘middle’ is multi-family housing that falls between a single-family home and an apartment building, such as a duplex, triplex, townhome, cottage, or accessory apartment.

Olympia officials hope is to address a mismatch in the housing stock: 70 percent of the city’s households are just one or two people, yet much of the city’s housing is single-family homes designed for larger families.”

Enter Bob Jorgenson:

“’The potential changes we’re talking about are going to be basically a reverse re-gentrification of a neighborhood,’ said Bob Jorgenson, who has lived in Olympia for 30 years. ‘We’re going to be putting multi-family where multi-family is not appropriate.'”

Bob’s opposition to the policy seems reasonable enough, ultimately, he’s just exercising his First Amendment Rights. But these are not ordinary times and Bob’s problem is he’s woefully out-of-touch with the larger context of growing income inequality in the United States and rising homelessness in Olympia.

Then there’s the “money” sentence in the short, illuminating story:

“Jorgenson, who created a Facebook page to rally residents against the plan, said he’s worried about worsening traffic, declining home values, and changing the aesthetics of single-family neighborhoods.”

Changing the aesthetics. For shitssake. It’s okay to think like Bob, but if you care at all about living peacefully with your neighbors, keep your self-centered, politically regressive thoughts to your self.

Bob cares more about the looks of his neighborhood than he does growing inequality, poverty, and homelessness. I predict Bob is going to get creamed tonight at City Hall at 6:30p.m. It’s dinner date night with the Gal Pal. Maybe we’ll go to Ramblin’ Jacks and hop across the street afterwards to watch Bob get tarred and feathered for being inexcusably out-of-touch.

Maybe I’ll even boost his spirits with a gift, a notebook, in which he can journal all about single-family neighborhood aesthetics.