April Miscellania

• The wife got me with a pretty good April Fools, said the new car “wasn’t starting in the morning” and “we should have someone look at it.” I had to return serve. So a few hours later I told her “Good news, the NYT is reporting that young trendsetters are dying their hair gray.” She laughed heartily until I said “April Fools!” That fact that it wasn’t a joke, is now the joke. That’s just the multi-layered way I roll.

• Got some rare direct blog feedback at dinner last week. One of my sibs said indignantly, “Why should anyone care about the details of your fitness routine?!” I explained those posts are primarily for Lance. Consider them optional, not required reading. Lance NEEDS to know how hard to work to maintain his running and cycling superiority.

• So here’s my indignant sib-adjusted fitness report for March. Battled a micro-tear in one calf and then threw my back out lifting/twisting dumbbells to and from the rack without my legs. Lost about a week. Swam 23,900m; cycled, 340; ran 97. WOM (workout of the month) was a 33 mile ride and 2.25 mile run with my 22 year old uber-niece who is about to kick some serious butt at the College Nationals Triathlon in Texas.

• March Madness update. The WSJ computer and I are currently in sixth or seventh place out of eleven in the office pool. If Duke wins, I will probably end up on the podium, but no one remembers who came in second. The first five participants don’t even follow college bball. I’m actually glad computers apparently can’t quantify something as complex as a 64 team tournament. It won’t be the same when it goes to 96 teams. Classic case of less being more. Of course this year I wish it had been 196 because then UCLA might have qualified.

• This recent David Brooks essay is one of my favorites of his of all time. Brooks got killed by the most recommended commenters. I found some of their comments perceptive, but most of those were of the “Look at me, I caught you being inconsistent” variety. No one is always perfectly consistent. Many of the most recommended comments struck me as weakly argued, mean-spirited, knee-jerk liberalism. I’m a liberal, but not a fan of knee-jerkism of any variety. Very easy to criticize especially so indirectly. I give Brooks credit for courage. He knows he can’t win when it comes to most NYT readers.

• Personal record for blog readership in March 2010; however, no reason to get carried away, you’re still a member of a select group. For reasons I’m not entirely sure of, people never comment on my personal finance posts, so I think I’ll retire that thread. Even though readership is up, commenting is not. Maybe I’m not angry enough? Maybe I need to tap my inner-Glenn Beck. Also, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I can’t get many readers to follow the small number of links I sometimes include. Case in point, you didn’t even open the previous Brooks’ link did you? I know everyone is pressed for time and I appreciate the fact that more people are at least logging on and skimming posts.

• Turns out I was exaggerating when I wrote that I’d pay anything for an iPad. I have not ordered one yet not because I wanted to read the reviews that were just published and let the application/software dust settle a bit. I anticipate buying one sometime before the summer equinox, but as a card carrying late adaptor, if so moved, I reserve the right to postpone the purchase indefinitely. Not owning one won’t stop me from adding “Sent from my iPad” on the bottom of my emails. Faux tech cache. Sometimes I amaze myself.

• Speaking of email, publicly admitting that I suck at it in my last post proved cathartic. Oddly, it inspired me to turn over a new email/internet leaf captured in this sticky note. Three days later, I’m stickying to it. Now email is not the boss of me, I’m the boss of email!

The note doubles as a logo cover, sorry Apple

David Brooks. . . It’s Not About Race

Somewhere along the line, over the last five or so years, David Brooks became our national political analyst. I read him this morning in the New York Times, I listened to him on National Public Radio while making dinner, and in short order I’ll watch him on PBS’s NewsHour. The DB trifecta.

Unlike most of his NYT readers, I like Brooks’ work, which doesn’t mean I always agree with him. Today’s commentary wasn’t his finest moment. Before ripping him, I acknowledge it’s impossible to be lucid, let alone insightful, perceptive, and provocative a few times a week in print and several times a week on air.

Maybe when it comes to our NPA, we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns. In today’s essay he reads way too much into his anecdote of white tea party protestors eating at an African American family reunion.

I’m supposed to find more meaning in Brook’s mid-jog Beltway anecdote than the analysis of numerous African-American and other analysts who cogently argue recent events convincingly illustrate race still clearly matters?

David, beware the “Tom Friedman effect”. Friedman, Brook’s colleague at the Times and a Pulitzer prize winning author suffers from what might be referred to as an “entrenched elite echo chamber”.

Friedman travels the world reporting on geo-politics and writing books about all things global. I’ve read him closely and concluded he’s almost completely clueless about ordinary people’s lives in the places he travels to and reports from because he almost never comes into contact with ordinary citizens in any substantive way. He almost exclusively references elites, favoring business and political heavyweights. Sometimes he’ll quote his cab driver in a strained stab at psuedo-populism.

Here’s how I suspect the entrenched elite echo chamber evolves: 1) grow up in a privileged family; 2A) attend elite K-12 schools; 2B) pick up a few degrees at highly selective colleges and universities with a majority of people from privileged families that attended elite schools and 2C) participate in extracurricular activities with other elites; 3A) enter a profession which pays well with 3B) a majority of people from similarly privileged backgrounds; 4A) move into a mostly white, well-to-do neighborhood; 4B) form friendships with neighbors whose kids attend elite schools and participate in the same extracurricular activities; 4C) attend the same kid’s activities and dinner parties with the parents of your children’s friends in the same economically homogenous neighborhood. 5) Do everything possible to get kids into highly selective colleges and universities. 6) Repeat.

I’m not immune from the echo chamber although it’s probably not quite as elite as DB’s and TF’s. My neighborhood has some cultural, but minimal, economic diversity. In all honesty, I’m not friends with many working class or poor people; consequently, I can’t pretend to understand them.

By acknowledging those two things I’m not quite as susceptible to the “Tom Friedman” effect.