1. What the Hell Happened to Darius Miles? A riveting story about growing up in East St. Louis. I didn’t know it is only 89 blocks. One aspect of the story I found particularly interesting, Miles never seemed to have any concern with whether his teams were competitive. Winning basketball almost seemed irrelevant to him.
“Klinenberg believes that the future of democratic societies rests not simply on shared values but on shared spaces: the libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches, synagogues, and parks in which crucial sometimes life-saving connections, are formed. These are places where people gather and linger, making friends across group lines and strengthening the entire community. Klinenberg calls this the ‘social infrastructure.’ When it is strong, neighborhoods flourish; when it is neglected, as it has been in recent years, families and individuals must fend for themselves.”
Klinenberg makes a particularly strong case for public libraries. If I was Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or Jeff Bezos, that’s where I’d focus a significant portion of my philanthropy.
Where I’m at currently in the book, Klinenberg is drawing on Jeff Wiltse’s social history of municipal swimming pools in the United States which I may have to read next. Wiltse offers searing reminders of our longstanding struggles with racism. For example, he recounts the story of a Little League Baseball team in Youngstown, Ohio, that celebrated its city championship in 1951 at a beautiful municipal pool in South Side Park.
The team had one African American player, Al Bright, and lifeguards refused to let him past the perimeter fence while the other players swam. When several parents protested, the supervisor agreed to let Al ‘enter’ the pool for a few minutes, but only if everyone else got out and Al agreed to sit inside a rubber raft. While everyone watched, a lifeguard pushed Al around the pool shouting, ‘whatever you do, don’t touch the water!”
“This was not an isolated incident, nor was it restricted to certain parts of the United States. Two years later, in 1953, the great African American film star Dorothy Dandridge dipped her toes in the swimming pool at the Last Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas, which welcomed her as a performer but banned her, and all other blacks, from the water. The hotel responded by draining the entire pool.”
These mind-numbing historical anecdotes aside, Palaces For The People is a hopeful work.
In the United States, there are two fundamental problems with implementing the convincing road maps that Klinenberg and other social scientists outline for safer, healthier, more vibrant communities. Everyone’s ingrained individualism coupled with many people’s refusal to acknowledge that publicly funded government programs often make significant contributions to the common good.
No one can beat Daniela Ryf, Switzerland’s long distance triathlon queen.
Once again, many tried on Sunday in Kona, Hawaii. The race consists of three legs, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run. Or for my metric friends—4k, 180k, 42k.
Ryf, winner of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 editions of the championship, was the indisputable favorite. Last year’s runner up, 25 year old Lucy Charles from Britain, was promising to hang with Ryf.
Never mind the 5-6 months of dedicated training for race day, a few minutes after dawn and minutes before the race start, Ryf was stung by jelly fish in both arms while warming up near Kailua Pier. Which brings to mind Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the mouth.” Ryf had a plan until stung in both arms.
In considerable pain, Ryf decided to try swimming. An athletic marvel, in the following interview, at the 2+ minute mark, Ryf reveals her true secret power—extreme mental toughness. “Maybe in five hours,” she says, “I’ll be feeling fine.” Most of us are doing well when we walk for 30 minutes, run for 45, swim for 60, or cycle for 90. Imagine thinking, “Maybe in five hours I’ll be fine.”
Although a few male pros were hospitalized after being stung pre-race, Ryf knew there was a chance the pain would dissipate. Her mental toughness coupled with her confidence in her training was more than enough.
Long story short, she finished the swim 9 minutes behind Charles, which many thought was an insurmountable gap. Four hours later, and five into the race, she passed Charles near the end of the bike and crossed the finish line 10 minutes ahead of her in a course record 8:26:16, 20 minutes faster than her 2016 course record.
Like Ryf, when we’re in pain—whether physical, mental, or emotional, how can we envision a brighter future? How can we learn to think that “Maybe in five days, weeks, months, or years, we’ll be fine?”
3. We Slow as We Age, but May Not Need to Slow Too Much. Finally, some good news. Footnote. Last Thanksgiving I ran my first marathon in a long time. My time was only 5 minutes slower than my personal record from a decade earlier. Probably my greatest athletic performance ever. A legend in my own mind.
One in five Americans are affected my mental illness in a given year.
I knew nothing about mental illness until ten years ago. I’m still skiing on the beginner slopes, but thanks to Kay Redfield Jamison, I am making up for being late to the game.
Her “memoir of moods and madness”, Unquiet Mind, is incredibly illuminating and highly recommended. In addition to being a preeminent scientist, Jamison writes exceedingly well. Of her memoir, Oliver Sacks wrote, “It stands alone in the literature of manic-depression for its bravery, brilliance and beauty.”
A few take-aways.
No one chooses bipolar illness, it’s inherited. It’s also treatable with a combination of medication (typically lithium) and psychotherapy. Things do not turn out well for patients who choose not to take lithium. In Jamison’s case, small doses worked better than medium ones.
With a combo of meds and psychotherapy, people with bipolar disorder live life as fully and “successfully” as any other cross-section of people. Jamison has done okay.
Jamison enjoys numerous, positive friendships. Being mentally ill doesn’t have to limit one interpersonally.
Jamison was fortunate to be surrounded by highly educated and caring scientists who were, with one notable exception, incredibly supportive of her upon learning of her condition.
Jamison’s colleagues and friends, with their unconditional positive regard for her, provide a model for the rest of us to help acquaintances, friends, and family with bipolar and other mental illnesses thrive.
Based upon tax case law, estate tax compliance is like speed limit enforcement, 5 miles an hour over the posted limit, troopers look the other way. Similarly, stretch property valuations and annual gift discounts +/- 5 or 10 percent on estate tax returns; no harm, no foul.
How Fred and Donald, and then just Donald, via their estate attorneys, drove 120 miles per hour on streets marked as “40”, year after year, I have no idea. Does the “I” in IRS stand for “Incompetent”?
Something else I have no idea about. How do any honest, hardworking people of modest means, who pay all of their taxes, support this serial short cutter whose actions suggest he doesn’t give a damn about the common good?
“They (father Fred and Donald) were both fluent in the language of half-truths and lies, interviews and records show. They both delighted in transgressing without getting caught. They were both wizards at manipulating the value of their assets, making them appear worth a lot or a little depending on their needs.
Those talents came in handy when Fred Trump Jr. died, on Sept. 26, 1981, at age 42 from complications of alcoholism, leaving a son and a daughter. The executors of his estate were his father and his brother Donald.
Fred Trump Jr.’s largest asset was his stake in seven of the eight buildings his father had transferred to his children. The Trumps would claim that those properties were worth $90.4 million when they finished converting them to cooperatives within a few years of his death. At that value, his stake could have generated an estate tax bill of nearly $10 million.
But the tax return signed by Donald Trump and his father claimed that Fred Trump Jr.’s estate owed just $737,861. This result was achieved by lowballing all seven buildings. Instead of valuing them at $90.4 million, Fred and Donald Trump submitted appraisals putting them at $13.2 million.
Emblematic of their audacity was Park Briar, a 150-unit building in Queens. As it happened, 18 days before Fred Trump Jr.’s death, the Trump siblings had submitted Park Briar’s co-op conversion plan, stating under oath that the building was worth $17.1 million. Yet as Fred Trump Jr.’s executors, Donald Trump and his father claimed on the tax return that Park Briar was worth $2.9 million when Fred Trump Jr. died.
This fantastical claim — that Park Briar should be taxed as if its value had fallen 83 percent in 18 days — slid past the I.R.S. with barely a protest. An auditor insisted the value should be increased by $100,000, to $3 million.”
1. I Know Brett Kavanaugh, but I Wouldn’t Confirm. Long, but well worth your time. The single best thing I’ve read on the beleaguered nominee and the state of our political (dis)union. Even made me regret my knee-jerk “no need to even listen to Kavanaugh” quip.
I am struck by how many of the accusations — from various women, not just Ford — suggest a role for alcohol in tales of abuse. Whether or not you believe any particular story, few can argue that alcohol is never connected to this kind of behavior. In the 1980s the U.S. had a major crisis with teen binge drinking and alcoholism, and many of those problems persist today, albeit at lower levels.
You might think the hearings would lead to a new consideration of alcohol as a major social crisis. If so, I haven’t seen it. Just a few weeks ago the World Health Organization released a report suggesting that 3 million deaths annually could be attributed to alcohol, or 1 of every 20 deaths worldwide. That barely made a splash in the news.
2) There is an asymmetry between male and female perceptions.
Most men are not abusers, yet very large numbers of women have been abused. So if a man is an abuser, there is a good chance he has abused a fair number of women.
That means many well-meaning men experience sexual abuse as a relatively rare phenomenon. They haven’t done it, and most of their male friends haven’t either. At the same time, most women have abuse, rape or #MeToo stories, and they experience these phenomena as relatively common and often life-altering. Probably they also have heard multiple such stories from their female friends. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is crucial to understanding the discourse and the often fundamental differences in opinion.
I would go further. This structural asymmetry of perspectives is why it’s crucial out-of-touch men get with the program and listen, learn, and empathize.