Weekend Assorted Links

1. Exercise May Help to Fend Off Depression. I would state it more definitively.

2. The Economic Gains of a Liberal Arts Education.

3. Two hundred years of health and medical care.

4. John Gruber’s 2018 Apple Report Card.

5. How Muggsy Bogues saved his brother’s life, and found the meaning of his own. Dig the pictures.

How Not To Video-Conference

As explained in “Ready for Your Close-Up?” in the Chronicle of Higher Education, some institutions can’t afford to reimburse job applicants for travel to their campuses. So for initial interviews at least, they resort to video-conferencing. Queue some funny stories:

“You might think that today’s Ph.D.’s — many of whom have grown up with video as a part of online communication — are already masters of self-presentation on camera. Sadly, you would be wrong. Here are a few cautionary tales from some of the selection committees I have worked with:

  • One candidate allowed her hamster to run loose in her home. During her interview, it ran up the back of her shirt and popped out on her shoulder, next to her collar.

  • During one candidate’s interview, a floor lamp toppled, spraying glass shards. She was cut and bleeding on camera.

  • Another candidate chatted with a committee while sitting on her bed, propped up by ruffled pillows. (Fully dressed, but it was still a little disconcerting.)

  • Then there was the candidate who was seated in front of a firearms-training target that showed several bullet holes grouped around the heart and the center of the forehead.

  • A candidate with a large dog failed to secure said animal in another room, so it came bounding in and leapt onto her lap midinterview, knocking everything over — and howled loudly for the rest of the interview when finally forced to stay in the adjoining room.”

And don’t forget this viral one.

Weekend Assorted Links

1. The Way Out of Trump Country. Yes.

2. Attack of the Fanatical Centrists.  Three comma club variety (explicit vid).

“. . . Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation.

But that’s not what is really happening, and the rest of us have no obligation to indulge centrist delusions.”

3. What’s It’s Like to Deliver Packages for Amazon.

4. How tax brackets actually work. Double dog dare anyone to provide a clearer explanation.

5. A Beginner’s Guide to Getting Into Podcasts. In case you’re late to the party.

What I Think I Know About The Covington, Kentucky High Schoolers

International Pressing Pausers have to be especially confused by what’s going on in the (dis)United States. I confess, I don’t fully understand what’s going on in the picture below which has prompted an intense national debate. At first glance, the central teen’s smile communicates a certain immaturity, arrogance, and disrespect for the elderly Native American in front of him.

Anyone that has worked with teens for any length of time can tell you that most are immature, some are arrogant, and a few disrespectful. So why the national outrage over one possible example from Covington, KY?

The picture probably fired up lefties because Native Americans deserve unmitigated respect for enduring centuries of oppression largely at the hands of white men. It most likely fired up conservatives because they believe the Left overreacts to any form of conservatism, thus opening themselves up to the criticism that they aren’t nearly as tolerant as they claim. Historical ignorance + a certain hypocrisy + ubiquitous social media = intense national debate.

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What I think I know about the photographed high schoolers is best explained through a short story. It’s the mid-90s, when I was a young prof at a liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC, I lead a First Year orientation mountain biking trip in West Virginia. By the end of Day One I was exasperated by the incessant immaturity of my charges. The young men in particular were crass, cliquish, and careless. Despite West Virginia’s natural beauty, I was dreading the remainder of the trip.

Then a funny thing happened. I started to have individual conservations with the participants one after another. And I was blown away by the discrepancy between their group and individual selves. One-on-one, or even two-on-one, at meals, in the jacuzzi, alone on the trail, I found them imminently likable. It was a powerful reminder of what I had forgotten about my teenage self and the hundreds of high schoolers I had taught previously. Teen males, a terribly insecure species, routinely bring out the worst in each other. The mathematical term is lowest common denominator (LCD). At it’s worst, it can contribute to a mob mentality.

When I first saw the “Covington” picture, the first thing I zeroed in on was the students in the background who were smiling and laughing at their classmate’s behavior. Classic LCD. Is susceptibility to negative peer pressure an excuse for immaturity, arrogance, disrespect; hell no, but it is reason to view the incident as more of a teachable moment than a criminal act.

Even without knowing the broader context, which is what now is being endlessly debated, the educator in me believes the teens deserve a modicum of grace. To learn about Native American history and people’s criticisms of their actions. In the expectation that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation they behave differently.

 

Stop Already Mr. President

If I confess to being afraid, very afraid, will you quit with the inane immigrant invasion scare mongering?

Like most Demos, I’m afraid of lots of things:

  • I’m afraid that your weakening of fuel economy standards may contribute to accelerating climate change.
  • I’m afraid that your efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act may make low-income people and people with preexisting conditions more vulnerable.
  • I’m afraid that your support of the National Rifle Association may lead to more mass shootings.
  • I’m afraid that your administration’s dismantling of environmental protections may endanger the natural environment and people’s health.
  • I’m afraid that your tax policies may widen the rich-poor gap.
  • I’m afraid that your coarseness may detract young people from pursuing public service.
  • I’m afraid that your silence on why our demand for illegal drugs is so high may cause people to believe the problem lies exclusively with other countries.
  • I’m afraid that your total disregard for international relations may take years for future administrations to undo.
  • I’m afraid that parents will continue to doubt whether their children may live better, more secure lives than them, because your administration is doing little to combat our mental health crisis, rebuild our infrastructure, and strengthen public schooling.
  • I’m afraid that your use of the phrase “fake news” may weaken the First Amendment and dissuade people from discriminating between more and less credible news sources.
  • I’m afraid that Ruth Bader Ginsburg might die and Russia will get another Supreme Court nomination.

Those are just my Demo fears, I’m also afraid that UCLA basketball will never return to prominence and my bench press might plateau at 160 lbs. I know, I’m a sad, sick guy.

The point of all this? Forgive me if the fact that some desperate people sneak into our country to work jobs our citizens won’t, doesn’t scare me as much as it does you. As you can see, my fear quotient is already off-the-charts.

 

Do Yourself A Favor

And jumpstart 2019 with some Chinese fiction. Specifically, Ge Fei’s The Invisibility Cloak, translated by Canaan Morse. My first 2019 book, well technically a novella, but I need to round up because Eldest read 44 books in 2018, the Good Wife 20, and the Youngest is reading up a storm since devouring Becoming late last month. Hmm, I wonder if Eldest and Youngest gave me six months of HBO for Christmas to distract me from the printed page #dastardly.

A rising tide raises all boats, so as I try to hang with the fam on the book front, I’m falling further beyond on The New Yorker. Ever catching up is probably hopeless. I’m onto this now, but I digress.

Ge Fei is a Chinese Ian McEwan, who I really, really like. Wonderfully clear; whacked out characters; compelling, suspenseful storylines. It was like spending another few weeks in China.

The back of book overview:

New wealth blossoms in today’s Beijing because everyone is lying to everyone else. Friends use friends, relatives cheat each other, and businessmen steal from one and all. Superficiality is the standard, and Mr. Cui knows it—in fact, he is drowning in it. The rich clients who buy his exquisite custom sound systems know nothing about music; his sister’s family is trying to trick him out of her unused apartment; his best friend takes advantage of and looks down on him. Desperate to escape this poisonous hypocrisy, the quiet artisan stakes his future on a job for a wealthy yet mysterious client who wants “the best sound system in the world.” This man, who has a mansion and an air of thinly concealed brutality, will drag Mr. Cui to the precipice of a new yet dangerous future.”

A central concept is connoisseurship. Unless it’s paired with arrogance, I always enjoy being in the presence of connoisseurs like Mr. Cui, an expert on high end sound systems. At one point, Cui secures a pair of the world’s nicest speakers, but he doesn’t tell his wife:

“Nor did I ever reveal their real value to Yufen. One day I came home from a delivery to find Yufen cleaning the speaker boxes with a goddam steel wood scrubber and White Cat disinfectant. She scrubbed hard to make them ‘look a little newer,’ and even put a huge fucking flowerpot on top of the each box. I almost fainted.”

More on the speakers:

“To keep the speakers in good working order and prevent the sound from deteriorating into fuzziness, I warmed them up once every two weeks or so, usually during the quite hours of the night. I’d pull out a recording of an Italian string quartet’s rendition of Mozart ( my favorite composer to this day), or Walter Gieseking playing Ravel or Debussy, and listen to it as a low volume for a couple hours. I knew that the technical specs of my own system kept the speakers from producing the best sound. But it was like seeing a young, beautiful woman right after she wakes in the morning, face fresh and unwashed, free of make-up. It felt more than enough. I could sense her understated elegance, her every gesture, her intoxicating allure.”

Damn, not all analogies are created equal yo.

Also, Cui’s takedown of self-important professors is LOL funny:

“. . . They seem incapable of doing anything but complaining. If the number of mosquitoes dropped one summer, they’d say, My God, the world’s gotten so bad even the mosquitoes can’t adapt. And if the mosquito population boomed, they’d say, Shit, it looks like only mosquitoes can thrive in this world.”

I should stop writing, and start reading, otherwise I’ll be mired in fourth place at year’s end.