Tuesday Required Reading

1. Does Diversity Matter for Health? Experimental Evidence from Oakland. This 35-minute podcast blew me away for its clarity, specificity, and importance. It has broad implications for anyone trying to diversify the teaching profession, businesses, really any sector of life where people of color are underrepresented.

2. Fighting for racial justice in . . . Sweden.

“We have huge integration problems in Sweden.”

3A. Nevermind about my “New Car Math“. Farhad Manjoo has seen a future without cars, and it’s amazing.

3B. World’s first’ 3D-printed unibody electric bike.

4. The case for Elizabeth Warren. I will not “give it a rest”.

“Her campaign cared about targeted solutions but didn’t restrict them to the usual narrow areas. When I walk up to the voting booth, my priority is to support harm reduction for my community—through robust policy initiatives, not lip service. It isn’t just about bail reform; I want to know how candidates will be addressing the fact that Black people are less likely to own their home, or be forced to take out predatory loans, or attend segregated schools. Warren embodied these principles by offering nuanced remedies for those issues as well as environmental injustice and health disparities.”

Twelve Years On

Can’t believe it’s been twelve and a half years.

My enthusiasm waxes and wanes. Truth be told, PressingPause has never really gained the traction I had hoped. Probably because I haven’t invested sufficient time and energy into growing the readership. Widely read blogs are authored by people who approach them like full-time work. In contrast, I’m a hobbyist. Just as in life, there are no shortcuts; you get out, what you put in.

And there are other impediments. Most critically, an admitted lack of focus. Bloggers with large readerships fill particular niches. People grow to trust them to be insightful about a specific topic or two, not twenty two.

My longevity is the result of two things. First, a lot of people I care about are readers. Their sporadic referencing of something I’ve written is always encouraging. Also, as a globally-minded citizen, the proportion of international readers is very gratifying.

Reader feedback doesn’t even have to be positive to be motivating, which leads me to a good friend who I greatly appreciate for prodding me lately to write in ways that unite more than divide. By legitimizing more politically conservative points of view.

He contends my writing is too often “divisive” and that I’m a part of the larger problem of a divided nation. That feedback isn’t easy to process, especially since the whole sine qua non of the blog is to help create thriving families, schools, and communities. But I truly appreciate him for actively engaging with my ideas. It’s much better to have readers sometimes say my ideas are divisive or even “batshit crazy” than to never say anything at all.

I tried attending to my friend’s constructive criticism in a recent post titled “Trump’s Triumphs”, to which he might fairly counter, “You’re making my exact point, one measly post.”

Here’s what I struggle with, with respect to my friend’s feedback. As a reader, the writing that resonants the most for me tends to be personal, and authentic to the point of distinctive, by which I mean it’s true to their life experience. I don’t find writers who strive for objectivity by alternating between sides of arguments nearly as compelling as I do writers who are clear, concise, and have the courage of their more conservative or liberal convictions. And yet, as I explained here, I find overly dogmatic, hyper-ideological thinking and writing terribly uninteresting because of its mind numbing predictability.

And maybe that’s exactly what my friend finds most frustrating about me, that I’ve become too predictable. I need to think about that more because I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.

When I read my own writing, I conclude that the more moved I am about a topic, the more fired up, or even angry, the better. But what if that’s not the case for my friend. What if he finds my “fire” too one-sided to the point of being off-putting?

This touches on a philosophical conundrum which all artists, not just writers, must resolve. Is art, or writing more specifically, like business where “the customer is always right”? Meaning is the reader always right? Or should the writer follow his or her heart and let the reader response be whatever it is or isn’t going to be?

 

 

New Car Math

I just bought a new car, or more accurately, a pre-owned car. A 2017 Prius-V, the uber-sexy wagon* that Toyota doesn’t make anymore that gets 45-50mpg**. Suffice to say, my friends’ jealousy is spiking. Don’t hate me because you ain’t me.

I paid $23,100. It had 13,662 miles on it and was in near new shape. Taxes, fees, and registration brought the total to $25,700.

This damn car review of the 2020 Prius Prime makes wonder if I made a mistake that you should avoid if in the market for a new car. Start at the 12 minute mark.

For some reason I can’t explain, in my upper lefthand corner of the world, car prices are lower in Portland, especially when I add in the tax savings since I live in a county with a lower than average rate and they use my home address for the sales tax calculation. Dig this 2020 Prius Prime car listing. Note, importantly, it’s the base model recommended by the Savage Geese.

Purchase price $27,201. For me, taxes, fees, and registration are going to push that to right around $30,000. Then, crucially, subtract the $4,500 federal tax credit that comes with it for an out of pocket cost of $25,500. Two hundy less than I paid for my lived in 2017 that I can’t plug in at night for 25 miles of electric range. I could stop right here, but let’s extend the case study for potential new car buyers unaccustomed to car math.

We’re going to own it for 8 years. Since it’s a Toyota, and we’re going to take great care of it, and not use it for ride sharing, let’s assume it depreciates slowly at 7.5%/year for a cost of approximately $1,900/year. Let’s fully insure it for the first six years at an approximate cost of $1k/year and then remove comprehensive and collision for years 7 and 8 for a savings of $300-$350 in each of those last two years. So total insurance costs is approximately $7k for the 8 years or $875/year.

Because we mostly use it in and around town, and use juice to do that, let’s assume 6 trips to the gas station at $25 a pop for a total outlay of $150/year. Same with maintenance, $150/year on average. The first two years are free, then we’d probably average $200 a year because we have an independent mechanic we trust and the car is bullet proof.

The final equation $1,900+$875+$150+$150=$3,075/year or about the same TOTAL cost my nephew paid for his beater Corolla. The big differences of course are the considerable safety and technology enhancements, superior ride quality, and convenience of only having to do regular maintenance.

$3,075/month is $256/month, or if you make $25.60/hour, 10 hours of work a month. Not too bad.

I am aware I failed to factor in electricity costs, not quite sure how to calculate those. Finally, my car has one distinct advantage over the new Prime, its vo-lu-mi-nous cargo space.

*with me in it

**because the RAV-4 Hybrid has cannibalized sales.

 

Thursday’s Required Reading

1. Back to Church, but Not, Let’s Hope, Back to Normal.

“One way to think about this pause in our lives is as a rare—likely a once-in-a-lifetime—opportunity for a reset. We actually stopped, the one thing our societies have never heretofore done. Things ground to a halt, offering us the chance to examine our lives and our institutions. And now, if we want it, we have a chance to rearrange them.”

2. Stop Building More Roads. Dan, Dan, The Transportation Man has been saying this for years. Who knew he knew what he was talking about? For some reason, the authors fail to mention that the President has sporadically talked about investing in infrastructure, but not followed through at all.

3. Japan auto companies triple Mexican pay rather than move to US. I’ll take “What the President Won’t Talk About” for $500.

“Consumers will ultimately pay the price for inefficient production and increased component flow. U.S. research agency Center for Automotive Research estimates that 13% to 24% of all cars sold in the U.S. will be subject to tariffs. If automakers pass these costs on, prices will rise by $470 to $2,200.

The center also said U.S. car sales will drop by up to 1.3 million units annually due to the Trump administration’s trade policy — including sanctions on China. It estimates that 70,000 to 360,000 jobs will be lost, leading to a $6 billion to $30.4 billion reduction in gross domestic product.”

4. Two Chefs Moved to Rural Minnesota to Expand on Their Mission of Racial Justice. Such a hopeful story about social infrastructure. Great pictures on top.

5. This vertical farm could be the answer to a future without water. New Jersey isn’t the only place where farms of the future are starting to bloom.

 

 

The Demagogue’s Playbook

By Eric Posner. This podcast episode with Posner is excellent.

What, according to Posner, is a demagogue?

“Despite it’s overuse, ‘demagogue’ has a core meaning that has remained stable over millennia. It refers to a charismatic, amoral person who obtains the support of the people through dishonesty, emotional manipulation, and the exploitation of social divisions; who targets the political elites, blaming them for everything that has gone wrong; and who tries to destroy institutions—legal, political, religious, and social—and other sources of power that stand in their way. The demagogue is frequently considered to be (and in many cases actually is), crude, vulgar, and violent—contemptuous of manners, civility, and norms, which the demagogue sees as structures that keep the elites in power.”

Reminds me of someone, I just can’t put my finger on it.

Tuesday’s Required Reading

1. What Anti-racist Teachers Do Differently.

“I have witnessed countless black students thrive in classrooms where teachers see them accurately and show that they are happy to have them there. In these classes, students choose to sit in the front of the class, take careful notes, shoot their hands up in discussions, and ask unexpected questions that cause the teacher and other classmates to stop and think. Given the chance, they email, text, and call the teachers who believe in them.”

2. The Tesla of masks. How ’bout it Captain?

3. Take this new and improved personality quiz. Isn’t there still a built-in complication–our inherently subjective sense of self?

4. Democratic ad makers think they’ve discovered Trump’s soft spot.

. . . unlike four years ago, they are no longer focusing on his character in isolation — rather they are pouring tens of millions of dollars into ads yoking his behavior to substantive policy issues surrounding the coronavirus, the economy and the civil unrest since the death of George Floyd.”

5. France bans Dutch bike TV ad for ‘creating climate of fear’ about cars’.

6. Corina Newsome: A birder who happens to be Black.