Don’t Write This Way

Positive writing models are the most helpful, but sometimes negative examples of what not to do are so glaring they just can’t be ignored.

From a lefty on Twitter, “I don’t want to be alarmist, but a GOP source just told me this: “Trump’s condition is serious. He can go either way. . . . ”

Writing at its worst. What’s more alarmist than “He can go either way”?

Own your ideas. One could write, “At the risk of being alarmist, . . . “, but if you truly don’t want to be alarmist, delete it all. Silence is often a great option.

Weekend Required Reading

1. Nice. At 5’4″ Canadian Leylah Annie Fernandez is about to prove me wrong about women’s professional tennis.

2. A young, supe-smart data scientist on why he’s moving on from the ‘rona and the best models to follow.

3. What Blair Braverman’s sled dogs taught her about planning for the unknown. Dig the blingy booties.

A sore Achilles tendon means I’ve temporarily traded running in for walking. I enjoyed a particularly nice one this morning. Until getting here. Nothing prepared me for high tide. Well, except for the “Tides Near Me” app on my pocket computer. 

Bruni on Trump

“It is time, at long last, to learn. To be smarter. To be safer. To be more responsible, to others as well as to ourselves. We cannot erase the mistakes made in America’s response to the coronavirus but we can vow not to continue making them. The way to treat President Trump’s diagnosis is as a turning point and a new start. This is when we woke up.”

The President Can, And Should, Order The Extrajudicial Assassination Of U.S. Citizens

Stole that title from a  Ben Mathis-Lilley piece on Slate titled, “Eight Things That Were Somehow Not Takeaways From the Debate Because Everything Else Was So Deranged”.

Who the hell believes that?

Mathis-Lilley:

“On the subject of protests and accompanying violence—a pet theme of the Trump reelection campaign—Wallace set out to press Biden on whether he was reluctant to call out the National Guard. When Biden argued that Trump’s federal interventions in Portland, Oregon, had made things worse, Trump jumped in to boast about his performance: “I sent in the U.S. Marshals to get the killer of a young man in the middle of the street, and they shot him. For three days, Portland didn’t do anything. I sent in the U.S. Marshals, they took care of business.” The “business” the president was referring to was the killing of Michael Forest Reinoehl, a suspect in the shooting of a far-right protester in Portland. After initial reports that Reinoehl had died in a gun battle with the authorities, one witness told reporters he was “clutching a cellphone and eating a gummy worm” when the marshals opened fire on him without warning.”

You probably don’t give a shit about Reinoehl. A petty criminal, he drag raced his 17 year old son on an Oregon road recklessly endangering other drivers. His family didn’t want anything to do with him. Then he was caught on film shooting someone at point blank in downtown Portland. A heinous crime for which he deserved a severe punishment.

The right used Reinoehl to say “See BLM stands for ‘bad liberals metastasizing'”. They certainly didn’t care that he was gunned down by Trump’s Marshalls.

What about the left? There was nothing redeeming about Reinoehl, but every U.S. citizen who doesn’t demand a full accounting of his death is contributing to an environment where a President can kill a citizen like Duterte killing a  drug dealer. Maybe even in broad daylight, in some place like Lacey, Washington, about 7-8 miles from where I’m sitting.

PLEASE tell me some documentary film makers are going to build on Tim Elfrink’s Washington Post story about Reinoehl’s murder. Maybe you don’t give a shit. Maybe you prefer the way they do things in the Philippines. If no one cares about the details of Reinoehl’s final minutes, we will be the Philippines in short order.

Wednesday’s Ride

Blanca is back from the hospital. Travis invited me to loop Mount Rainier. My schedule opened up. In the fourth and final hour of our ride, leg muscles I didn’t even know I had took turns cramping like dominos. But thanks to Travis shepherding me up Skate Creek like George Hincappie used to do for What’s His Name with all the faux TdF titles, somehow I made it.

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Grifter-In-Chief

I’m only halfway through the New York Times 10,000 word investigative report on Trump’s taxes.

So far, my favorite part is these seemingly innocuous paragraphs:

“To see what a successful business looks like, depreciation or not, look no further than one in Mr. Trump’s portfolio that he does not manage.

After plans for a Trump-branded mini-city on the Far West Side of Manhattan stalled in the 1990s, Mr. Trump’s stake was sold by his partner to Vornado Realty Trust. Mr. Trump objected to the sale in court, saying he had not been consulted, but he ended up with a 30 percent share of two valuable office buildings owned and operated by Vornado.

His share of the profits through the end of 2018 totaled $176.5 million, with depreciation factored in. He has never had to invest more money in the partnership, tax records show.”

One of Trump’s only successful business ventures was successful because he lost ownership of it. But the joke of course is on us because he’s doing to our country exactly what he’s done to the vast majority of his businesses.

How Long Will We Slight The Social-Emotional Costs Of On-Line Learning?

Thursday, First Year Writing, The Morken Building 131, the first in-person class of the academic year. Students take turns summarizing their first papers about whether one needs, as a Stoic philosopher we read argues, a coherent philosophy of life and a “grand goal of living” to avoid squandering one’s life. They’re smart, so they push back at the suggestion one can neatly plan their life. They talk about some things being outside of our control, like viruses.

If not a coherent philosophy of life, what about guiding principles I wonder. And if so, which ones? They’re not quite ready for subtly, nuance, ambiguity, complexity. That’s why college is four years long. For now at least, I keep those thoughts to myself and just listen.

One student says her mother died in February. Not expecting that, I loose track of what follows, wondering how she died and what would it be like to lose your mom at 17 or 18. She says doing well in school doesn’t matter as much as it did previously.

The students, many who say they struggle with anxiety, have never enjoyed going to class more. Not because of the doofus facilitating things, because they’re famished for friendship. Flat out famished. They linger afterwards, partly to disinfect the tables, but mostly to extend our shared sense of normalcy as long as possible.

The student whose mother died walks up to the front to talk to me. Through my mask I thank her for having the courage to share that news and gently inquire about her mother’s passing. She tells me her mother chose “Death With Dignity” after a lifetime of being severely disabled. And she wanted me to know the paper was really challenging to write, but my sense was, not in a bad way, in an important way. I think it caused her to grieve her mother in a way she hadn’t. She ended up writing her mother a letter and using parts of it to begin her paper.

For those few moments, as her classmates slowly filed out of the room in small groups, she and I shared a human connection that superseded our teacher-student identities. I saw her and heard her in a way that’s utterly impossible on-line.

I am all in on the scientific consensus regarding masks, social distancing, maximizing time outdoors, and washing hands. I am comfortable enough returning to the classroom because my university has done an excellent job preparing for as safe as possible a return to in-person classes. I will not help politicize this public health crisis.

What follows is a non-partisan question, my reference point is the social-emotional health of young people.

If we don’t begin implementing “blended” or “hybrid” teaching methods soon, with at least some in-person instruction, what are the social and emotional costs to friendless students who are not being seen or heard in any kind of meaningful way?