Friday Assorted Links

1A. The new “Coolest City on the East Coast“.

1B. Some of the best television in history.

2. Better to buy or rent? The American Dream is a Financial Nightmare.

Spoiler.

“Housing has always had a terrible track record as an investment – from 1890 to 2012, the inflation-adjusted return (i.e. taking inflation out) on residential real estate was 0.17 percent. That means a house purchased for $5,000 in 1890 would be worth $6,150 in 2012.

Over the same time period the stock market returned an inflation-adjusted 6.27 percent. That means a $5,000 investment in the market would be worth over $8 million.”

3A. First-generation students are finding personal and professional fulfillment in the humanities and social sciences. The Unexpected Value of the Liberal Arts.

3B. A “Seismic Change” at Cal State.

4. A friend of mine, a former high school principal extraordinaire, says school leaders need at least five years to implement meaningful reforms. The D.C. public schools have not got the message. One in four D.C. public schools have had at least three principals since 2012.

5. About 50,000 people live in Olympia, WA and in Venice, Italy. Approximately 20,000,000 visit Venice annually. That’s approximately 55,000 people every day of the year. If that many people visited Olympia each year, I would do what young Venetians have already done. Leave.

6. Venezuela is collapsing.

7. Hypothetical. Say at some point in the future I’m out mowing the lawn and decide to take a “nature break” behind a big tree on our rural property. Will mountain goats later appear? One other thing, what kind of person whizzes where those mountain goats are licking in the lead picture?

On Anti-Intellectualism

Jordan Weissmann of Slate shares a mind numbing story that calls into question the President’s intelligence. Titled “A Small But Soul-Crushing Illustration of Donald Trump’s Economic Illiteracy,” he concludes:

“At some point, it appears Donald Trump heard somebody say that the United States cannot grow as fast as China or Malaysia because we have a ‘large’ economy. No doubt, what they meant is that the U.S. is a highly developed, rich nation and therefore can’t expand as quickly as developing countries that can still reap large gains from taking basic steps to improve their living standards. But Trump did not understand it that way. He apparently thought that when whoever he was listening to said “large,” they were talking about population. Therefore, in his mind, if China grows at nearly 7 percent per year with its 1.4 billion people, the U.S. should be able to do it too. This is the man who millions of voters are relying on to bring back jobs.”

Many anti-Trumpers will interpret this middle school-like error as disqualifying. A President has to have a modicum of economic literacy, doesn’t she? But there are lots of others whose school experience was so negative that they are suspicious of anyone or anything academic in nature. They trust people who work with their hands way more than they do people, like journalists, who work with words.

It’s easy to write off these people’s anti-intellectualism as simple-minded, but there’s more to it. Listen to their stories and inevitably they’ll talk about classmates’, teachers’, or employers’ negative preconceived notions of them. Their strongest memories of school are of a pervasive arrogance that often takes root early as a result of homogenous ability grouping or “tracking”. In the way they design curriculum and evaluate student work, educators routinely define “intelligence” far too narrowly, agreeing that those especially good at reading and writing have it, and those whose “smarts” take less academic forms, do not.

Formally educated professionals aren’t intentionally arrogant, but often, they convey a sense of superiority in subtle and nuanced ways. Not being in touch with one’s arrogance doesn’t negate its impact.

We talk about education’s importance all the time without acknowledging the underlying antipathy many have for formally educated know-it-alls who would never conflate the meaning of a “large economy”. One particular friend of mine, who is unconventionally smart and happened to vote for the reading-averse President, would conclude one thing from Weissmann’s story, he’s an arrogant prick.

Is that because my friend is just another irrational right wing nutter or are formally educated people like me to blame? At least in part.

My Life as a Triathlete

Last night right before bed I got a text from downstairs, “Weren’t you supposed to do a triathlon today?”

A couple of weeks ago I told the Good Wife I was thinking about doing an Olympic triathlon in Portland on July 30th. But I’ve become so flaky about racing the last few years that comment didn’t register with her, so a couple of days ago she suggested that after church we go to Alderbrook for brunch with the in-laws. Which is how I spent imaginary triathlon day.

Once I had eaten my vegetarian omelete and killer breakfast potatoes at Alderbrook, cruised Steamboat Island, and returned home, I turned my attention to how a friend was doing at Ironperson Canada in Whistler, B.C. She was 90% through the run and in first place in her age group, so I sporadically checked in to see if she won and thereby qualified for the World Championship in October in Kona, which happily she did.

I also checked on the 55-59 year old men to see how I would’ve probably done. Because I’m experienced, time my training sessions, and often train with others who do race, I can estimate pretty damn accurately how fast I would’ve gone over the 140.6 miles. I would’ve finished second out of 29 geezers.

This is what I do. I train, I think about racing, but I don’t actually register for any events. I even have a built-in excuse for not racing in our local triathlon each June. Too short.

My hangups are many. I need a good sports psychologist if you have a recommendation. I need to either turn off my computer and put on my wetsuit or come to grips with what I texted back. “It appears as if I’m retired from competition.”

IMG_0760.JPG

A picture from my last triathlon.

Friday Assorted Links

1. Starbucks is constantly innovating.

2. Excellent pictures of the Tour de France in case you missed it. Even if you followed it, check out the second image.

3. The New York Times is struggling mightily to reinvent itself.

“As one editor put it, ‘The mood at the paper is poisonous in a way I’ve never seen it in the past 15 years.'”

4. The Good Wife, while starring at Peralta Junior High School in Orange, CA, once scored a basket in the opposing team’s hoop. Here’s hoping this makes her feel better.

5. Are helicopter parents ruining summer camp? Sadly, dear readers, this is a rhetorical question. Best not to read if you already have high blood pressure.

6. Raising a truly bilingual child.

Apple, Foxconn, Wisconsin

After reading Janesville, I couldn’t help but be interested in this perfectly titled piece in The Atlantic.

Numbers to ponder:

“It has up to $3 billion in tax breaks, to be passed and provided by the state government. Those kinds of tax incentives can get a manufacturer to plant a factory in a given location—but generally at a significant cost to the state budget, and without doing much to help the economy overall.”

What does $3b mean?

“The Washington Postestimates that the breaks could cost the state as much as $230,700 per job created. Tim Culpan at Bloomberg Businessweek puts it at $1 million per job, enough to buy every man, woman, and child in Wisconsin a new iPhone.”

So the margin of error is only $770k/per job created. I recommend the rest of the succinct piece.

What to Do When Stocks are Pricey

Insightful blog post by Carl Richards titled “You’re No Coward If You’re Keeping Some Money Out of Stocks”.

What should “some” be as a percentage? Conventional investment wisdom is subtract your age from 110 or 100 and invest that much in stocks.

Better yet, think about risk like Richards:

“You see, I hate losing money in investments that are outside my control. It ties me up in knots and distracts me from just about everything. So awhile ago, when I moved some money out of a 401(k) plan into my retirement account after a job change, I left it in cash.

I told myself that I was fine with missing out if the market continued to go up. But I wasn’t fine with investing this pile of cash just in time to get my head taken off in a big, scary market drop. And guess what? That was and still is true. So, I’m fine sitting in cash earning 0.16 percent or whatever the rate might be. I just don’t want to lose.

This decision has cost me in paper gains that I might have achieved, given how well the stock market has done since that decision, but I don’t care. I don’t see it as a real cost. Instead, I see it as an investment in my sanity and my human capital.

The fact that I didn’t have to worry about losing money in that area of my life allowed me to feel comfortable taking risks in other areas. I’ve started two or three new businesses and moved my family to New Zealand. The risks I have taken have provided, and will continue to provide, a much higher return than what I might have received if I remained fully invested in the markets.”

Haim is Contributing to the Greater Good

I lent my iPod to Alison once.

She ended up sharing its contents with my sissy who got a big kick out of my fondness for female artists of a folky/pop/R&B persuasion. I’m secure enough in my maleness to say I dig me some Karen Carpenter, Jill Scott, Abigail Washburn, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Tracy Chapman, Sade. I pity the faux-macho who are too insecure to embrace the beauty of female voices.

Which brings us to Haim, who I just learned about as a result of this lengthy review of their second album, Something to Tell You. Learning of my discovery on her visit home last week, Alison has been helping me catch up. Their voices are excellent, but I’m even more enamored by their stage presence.

Carl Wilson, Slate’s music reviewer, follows the music scene much, much more closely than me. As a result, I had to read Wilson’s review a couple of times to make sense of it. From the odd opening reference to Haim as “the smart set’s favorite white pop band”, I alternately really liked and disliked his analysis.

I liked his description of their newest vid.

“This emphasis on musicianship rebukes the stubborn stereotype of the “girl band” as an artificially assembled group of sexy singers. Haim (pronounced “Hi-um”)* doesn’t have to dress up and do choreographed dance routines. The sisters are not ornaments—they’re the music makers. (Of course, it’s the music business, so they’re still conventionally attractive. Though that also reinforces that they’re making a choice.) So, in the video, they move only when they feel the music, sing only when it seems expressive. Got it.”

I disliked his thesis.

“Every pop moment is embedded in history, and history is embedded in every pop moment. Thinking through Something to Tell You, I’m puzzled by how Haim has gotten better but seems worse than in 2013–14. The reason has to be that in the late Obama era, when pop-chart populism still seemed democratizing and progress was on the upswing, Haim’s sisterhood variation on the theme felt liberating. That populism now feels double-edged, so the songs don’t quite stick. At the tail of the “Want You Back” video, the dance routine falls apart, and the trio wanders off laughing as the camera pulls away. The cathartic feeling dwindles back to mere charm, a shrugging amiability. It works as a reclamation of the band’s autonomy from pop imperatives, but it’s also like what happened here didn’t matter. It’s just another perfect day in carefree, privileged L.A.”

Mere charm, a shrugging amiability, what happened here didn’t matter, it’s just another perfect day in carefree, privileged L.A. That last phrase strikes me as especially odd. What makes L.A. carefree and privileged, the fact that they closed Van Nuys Boulevard for the shoot? And why is Haim responsible for, or even complicit in, L.A.’s supposed carefree, privilege?

Maybe Wilson is too deep for me, but the way I interpret his “mere charm, a shrugging amiability, what happened here didn’t matter” sentence is that art must be political today. Meaning Haim has to take some sort of a stand on pressing issues of the day. I beg to differ because I interact regularly with a lot of young women who are extremely self conscious, sometimes to the point of being intensely anxious and/or clinically depressed.

When I watch the “Want You Back” vid and this one,

the Haim sisters come across as joyfully unencumbered. Carefree is absolutely right. Given some young women’s mental health challenges today, that is gift enough.

Every one of us struggles, to varying degrees, with being self-conscious. The less self conscious among us inspire us to be more authentic, to make art, to dress, to write, to live, however we feel.

I’ll take more unencumbered joy with my art than policy pronouncements any day.

* I LOVE hate it when I am right and Alison is wrong. DIG the hypen Al, two syllables!** Let your friends down easily.

** Exclamation point = Millennial flourish.