The Best and Worst of Times

Excellent jobs report. Stock market records. Homelessness seemingly on the rise. When it comes to the (dis)United States economy, there are distinct winners and losers.

Eleven months ago, I bought a couple shares of AAPL for $142. Today, they are worth $270.

A few days ago I went to our downtown depository of knowledge to pick up a book I had requested. A man, middle class looking, was doing the same. Looks can be deceptive.

He informed the librarian that he “had some money” and wanted to pay some of what he owed. “Oh,” the librarian said somewhat surprised, “you have some money.” He fiddled around in his velcro wallet and pulled out a small tangled wad of $1’s. “What’s my debt?” he asked. “$5.35,” the librarian said. “Okay, I’ll pay $2 of that.”

 

Wednesday Assorted Links

1. What swimming in my underwear taught me about Donald Trump and getting away with it. Funny, but rest assured Briggs YMCA patrons, I do not condone swimming in one’s underwear. That’s the reason the swimming backpack has a second just in case suit and pair of underwear. More spontaneous peeps should adhere to a strict “forget your suit, forget the workout” life philosophy. (Thanks DB.)

2. Why shade is a mark of privilege in Los Angeles.  My conservative friends will say this is ridiculous. As someone far too experienced with skin cancer, I respectfully beg to differ.

“As the world warms, the issue of shade has drawn more attention from urban planners. The writer Sam Bloch, in an article in Places Journal this year that focused on Los Angeles, called shade ‘an index of inequality, a requirement for public health, and a mandate for urban planners and designers.'”

3. I learned to play the piano without a piano. Passion personified.

“I was 11 years old when I asked my mum for piano lessons, in 2010. We were in the fallout of the recession and she’d recently been made redundant. She said a polite ‘no’.

That didn’t deter me. I Googled the dimensions of a keyboard, drew the keys on to a piece of paper and stuck it on my desk. I would click notes on an online keyboard and “play” them back on my paper one – keeping the sound they made on the computer in my head. After a while I could hear the notes in my head while pressing the keys on the paper. I spent six months playing scales and chord sequences without touching a real piano. Once my mum saw it wasn’t a fad, she borrowed some money from family and friends, and bought me 10 lessons.”

4. On writing about divorce when you’re still married.

“There’s my husband in the corner, who’s married to someone always wondering just how solid the ground beneath her feet is, and who always reassures her that it’s good. There’s my ring on my finger. There are all my friends, rising up from the ashes of their old marriages and seeking out new bodies to bond to. What is more romantic—more optimistic and life-affirming—than the fact that we know how all of this might end and still we continue to try?”

5. It’s that time of the year when you start wondering what to get your favorite blogger for Christmas.

 

Impeachment Winners

Highfalutin Washington D.C. lawyers.

When candidate Trump promised to “drain the swamp” it sent shivers up their collective spine. How would they make ends meet at something less than $1,000/hour? Rumor has it some began playing public golf courses, others went plant-based to save on groceries, still others enrolled in certificate programs at Prince George’s Community College.

But based upon the live blogging of Michael S. Schmidt, a New York Times Washington Correspondent, it looks like D.C. legal beagles are going to be able to hang onto their Georgetown brownstones.

As the hearing slows down a bit, I’ve been doing back-of-the-envelope math on Sondland’s legal fees. He had a nine-hour deposition in October and preparation time for that. He submitted an amended statement two weeks later. Then he had more prep for today’s testimony. It is certainly over $100,000 and likely much much more.

U.S. Health Care Is Not Affordable

If a country is the “greatest” in the world, what kind of health care system would we expect at minimum?

I spent 15 minutes with a dermatologist recently. She examined my skin; froze one spot; and scraped another small, suspicious one on my upper back; and sent that to the lab. Fortunately, as per usual (so far), it came back as another basal cell carcinoma. 

I am very fortunate to have health insurance through my employer. I pay a small amount of the monthly premium, but in exchange for that I have a high deductible, and I am limited to docs in my network.

The bill was $1,058. I owe $812. 40% of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency. So, what are people doing in light of run away health care inflation? In many cases I’m sure, they’re choosing not to seek care. Which, of course, is more costly in the long run.

This case study may shock international readers, but not my U.S. friends who no doubt have their own depressing stories, some I’m sure, that make mine laughable by comparison.

 

 

Weekend Assorted Links

1. Silent book clubs? Introverts of the world unite.

“Locations dot the globe, with congregants meeting monthly in Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and many other cities and countries.”

2. Push for Ethnic Studies in Schools Face a Dilemma: Whose Stories to Tell?

“Many educators and policymakers across the country have been pushing for instructional materials that confront race in America, citing instances of racist violence and the divisive and inflammatory language ricocheting in politics, on social media and beyond. California is one of the first three states, alongside Oregon and Vermont, to forge ahead this year with creating K-12 materials in ethnic studies.

The debate in California highlights some of the difficult questions that educators will face: Which groups, and whose histories, should be included? Is the purpose to create young, left-leaning activists, or to give students access to a broad range of opinions? And are teachers, the majority of whom are white, ready to teach a discipline that is unfamiliar to many of them?”

My “Multicultural Perspectives in the Classroom” students will be required to resolve this dilemma at the semester’s end.*

3. We Have Ruined Childhood.  Related, School lunchtime too short Washington State’s Auditor says. My “Schools and Society” students will read and discuss this one.*

“. . . childhood, one long unpaid internship meant to secure a spot in a dwindling middle class.”

4. Tehran Orders Crackdown as Wealthy Use Ambulances to Beat Traffic. The growing divide between rich and poor is not limited to the (dis)United States.

“When the phone rang at a private ambulance center in Tehran, a famous Iranian soccer player was on the line. The operator recognized him instantly and expressed sympathy for the presumed medical emergency in his family.

The soccer star laughed and said nobody was sick. He was requesting a reservation for an ambulance for a day to run errands around the city. He wanted to avoid the choking traffic that can turn a 10-minute ride into a two-hour trek. The money he was offering was equivalent to a teacher’s monthly salary.”

5. Woman Wins 50K Ultra Outright, Trophy Snafu for Male Winner Follows. 

“. . . there was only a trophy for the overall winner, which was predicted to be a man.”

Oops.

6. The highest paid player per second in NBA history. What a redemption story.

* sadly, the sabbatical ends

Tesla-fy What?

Earlier this week I posted a vid about EV West, a California company that installs Tesla like electric technology into really old, but stylish cars nearing the end of their lives.

Makes me wanna go out and find a candidate for a Tesla transplant. And I have the perfect car. One of the best cars ever made in these (dis)United States. Some cars may be a little more reliable, but none more stylish. A car my family was lucky enough to own in the mid 1970s. Drum roll. . .

IMG_5732-762x456.jpgThat’s right an American Motor Corporation Gremlin in powder/purplish blue. Here’s another angle of one with a badass racing stripe.

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This was the zenith of American motor vehicle history. Why Japan’s auto companies didn’t unilaterally surrender, and how AMC didn’t make it, I’ll never know.

One warm sunny day in Cypress, CA, my two older brothers collided while repositioning the Gremlin and another one of our cars in front of our suburban tract home. I thought one of them was going to kill the other. Most funny thing I may have ever witnessed.

Middle Brother always struggled with the ladies, so feeling badly for him, moms gifted him the Gremlin before the “San Bernardino Mountains ski bum” chapter of his illustrious life. Once, while in the mountains, a falling bolder clipped our automotive masterpiece or at least that’s the story he tells.

His love life did improve after taking ownership of the Gremlin. How could it not? Similarly, I suspect I will draw much added attention after finding and Tesla-fying a Gremlin.