Friday Assorted Links

1. Did you like The Brady Bunch? Do you have $1.885 million?

2. Attention drivers. Highway 1 is now open.

“After 17 months and more than $100 million replacing a damaged bridge and rebuilding the highway in two locations, drivers can once again skirt the western edge of the continent, forever burnished by wind, rain, waves and tide.”

Props to the much maligned public sector.

3. No PressingPauser would ever stereotype professional basketball players just because of their outward appearance, but just in case, there’s this.

4. If I ever suffer temporary insanity and pay $250 for a pair of running shoes, they damn well better make me (a lot) faster.

“Compared with typical training shoes, the Vaporflys are believed to wear out quickly: Some runners have said they lose their effectiveness after 100 miles or so.”

$2.50 per mile? As Millennials like to say, hahahahaha.

5. Forget a Fast Car, Creativity is the New Midlife Cure. Right on. I hope that means superficial, materialistic lowlifes like me can score a pre-owned Porsche for less.

6. Could not have happened to a nicer guy.

Why Are You Preoccupied With How Others Perceive You?

The real question of course is why do we care about how people, in many cases whom we don’t even know well, think about us? Odd how often we willfully hand over how we feel about ourselves to the vagaries of total strangers.

Kraznic has an excellent chapter on money in Wonderbox. He writes eloquently on how status anxiety begets mindless consumerism. We all suffer from status anxiety in different ways and to different degrees. I’m convinced we all suffer from it more than we realize or are willing to admit. Who me? Status anxiety?

When Sixteen spends half an hour on her hair before school, her status anxiety is easy to detect. And developmental psychology helps us understand the normalcy of that, but I will probably never fully understand women and their hair. I realized this anew after receiving an email from my sissy about my mother whom she’s helping move into a new apartment building for seasoned citizens. Today Mother Dear was getting her hair “done” for the first time by the new apartment building’s stylist. And my sissy provided the long distance play-by-play:

Mom is sure the girl will be horrible. We had R take photos from every direction of her newly done hair last week, put it on the iPad and I just showed the photos to the hair girl. She has been doing hair for 42 years so we’ll see.

Picturing the picture taking and thinking about my mom’s anxious pessimism made me chuckle, but then just as quickly they made me think about how we never entirely stop caring about our status.

What are others going to think about me when they see my hair? What about the lawn? How does it compare to the neighbors? The car? The wardrobe? The size of the ring? My waistline, muscles, curves, complexion? The kitchen countertops? The gas grill? The cupboards? The whole damn house? How about the social calendar? The number of friends? The friends’ status? The job title? The salary? The vacation destination? The long-distance triathlon finishing time? The blog readership? The children’s athletic success, academic success, college choices? Their job titles? Their salaries? And the beat (down) goes on.

Madison Avenue is genius at playing on our status anxiety, but it’s too simplistic to blame advertising execs for the sum total of it. There’s something deeper at work, something rooted in human nature. In prehistory, I imagine there was fire envy. “Damn, just look at that family’s raging fire. Yeah and their spears are insanely sharp and hella lethal.”

The goal isn’t to not care at all, it’s to care much less especially about what anonymous others think. When Nineteen was seven her second grade teacher asked me to do a guest lesson on China which I had recently visited. Knowing Seven’s social life was hanging in the balance, I planned a meticulous lesson based on three open-ended questions and some slides from which her classmates and she could deduce answers. Afterwards I bent down and asked, “How’d it go?” And I’ll never forget her words because they were the highest praise I’ve ever received as a long-time, successful educator. “You were perfect Dad.” I want my students to like my courses. And I want my Saturday morning running friends to laugh at my ribald jokes. But I care most about what my wife and daughters think about me.

Tonight, when fifteen other cyclists and I hit the base of Bordeaux in Capitol Forest, and the climb is on in earnest, all we’ll hear is one another’s heavy breathing. The prize for being the first one to the top? Status as the “King of the Mountain”. The same game I lived to play in construction sites forty plus years ago. Everyone will know who the biggest badass is on the return into town.

If I start providing other examples of how I routinely succumb to status anxiety, this post would be my all-time longest, and no one wants that. So let me end with a twist on status anxiety just to illustrate how irrational its grasp can be at times.

I wrote once before that, in 2008, I bought a seal gray Porsche Cayman. It was beautiful and drove entirely different than any other car I’ve ever owned. Mother-Dear says, “You can’t love something that can’t you love back,” so suffice to say, I liked it a whole, whole lot. Originally, that is. Over time, I grew self conscious, increasingly uncomfortable about what other people thought of me when they saw me in it. Did they think that I thought I was better than them because my car was way faster, more expensive, and stylish? A lot of people probably buy Porsches exactly for that reason, but I couldn’t shake the self consciousness. And so I sold it. To a German Microsoftie.

Why did I care so much about what people at church or work thought about what I drove when they don’t really know me? [Dear Microsoftie, I’d like a do-over, a Porsche-based exercise in overcoming status anxiety. Make like Carly Rae and Call Me Maybe.] Ultimately, why do I care about what anyone outside of my family thinks about my (amazing) hair, my (splendid) kitchen counters, my (now completely forgettable) car, or my (still-to-be-determined) triathlon time?

Recovering from training with la ultima status symbol—Australian labradoodle extraordinaire.

Derek Jeter

From Buster Olney’s ESPN blog:

“The Yankees’ belief is that their current three-year, $45 million offer is fair, and that by offering arbitration to Jeter, they essentially would bail him out after a down year. The Yankees feel that in the past, Jeter has fairly negotiated from his standing in the marketplace — when he went to arbitration in 1999, when he negotiated a 10-year, $189 million deal in 2001. And now the Yankees feel these talks should reflect Jeter’s place in the market; they also believe that no other team would be willing to pay him what they have offered. Here’s one big factor working against Jeter in this negotiation: While the Yankees want him and are offering him above what his market value is, they operate in the knowledge that if Jeter doesn’t re-sign — if he actually walks away — then his departure would not be a mortal blow to their pennant hopes in 2011. If Jeter walked away in 2001, that would have been different; he was an exceptional player then. Now he is a good player, but far from irreplaceable.”

I’m concerned for DJ. He’s building the largest, most expensive home on the water in Tampa a few miles from my mom’s pad. How’s he supposed to finish it and furnish it with a best-case scenario pay cut of $3.9m/year ($15m versus $18.9)? Last time I cycled by his crib there was a Porsche Panamera parked out front. Next time I ride by it will probably be a Toyota Highlander.

Sports analysts refer to DJ’s value to the Yankees in terms of his personal brand and argue it contributes to the team’s brand. In essence, approximately half of the proposed contract is a bonus for distinguishing himself from the other knuckleheads in the same locker room. Don’t mistake this for Yankee bashing, it’s pro athlete bashing more generally. It’s a sign of the sorry state of pro sports that Jeter has separated himself from the vast majority of ball players by doing what should be the norm, chasing foul balls into the stands, passing on p.e.d.s, and living within the laws of the land. In short, be a good citizen and we’ll pay you extra.

What intrigues me the most about these negotiations is the relative discipline of the SOS’s, “Sons of Steinbrenner.” A lot of financial analysts that study the wealthy predict that the vast majority of young adults of extremely wealthy parents will blow through their inherited wealth given their sense of entitlement and anemic work ethic. My guess is Steinbrenner would have signed DJ by now for more than is on the table. Props to the sons for their surprising, relative fiscal discipline.

Here’s what DJ should do. Sign the contract and say, “I’m well aware that functional unemployment is 17%. That awareness makes me even more appreciative of this contract which enables me to continue making a very good living playing a child’s game for the best franchise in professional sports. This is not a ceremonial signing. I will continue to work hard day in and day out to bring Yankee fans more joy over the next three seasons.”

“I’ll figure out,” he might add once the microphones and cameras are flipped off, “how to cut some costs on the new spread.”

Yankees daring Jeter to look elsewhere?

Humorous

Three things that made me laugh recently.

Everyone needs a mentor don’t you think? He doesn’t know it yet, and it doesn’t matter that his family is younger than mine, but Phil Dunphy of Modern Family is mine. Great show. I’ve been having amazing success with Phil’s “peer-enting” approach to fatherhood. In this short clip, my mentor explains how to “keep it real” and “take it to the next level” or vice-versa, not sure yet.

Even money I’m the only person who thinks this is funny. Read Tyler Cowen’s short blog post titled “Why do people ask questions at public events?” Funniest sentence, “Anecdotally, I have found that men wearing suspenders are most likely to ask longish, rambling questions.” If you watch Booknotes on C-Span like me you read that sentence and said to yourself, “Yeah, no kidding!” You can picture loquacious suspender guy in vivid detail, white hair, spare tire, open windbreaker, prone to conspiracy theories. So why is the suspender-set so loquacious? Funny!

And my next car is funny.

“At full gallop, the concept can theoretically reach 62 mph in 3.2 seconds and nip 198 mph on the high end.” Funniest thing I’ve read in a long time. As a bonus, “Porsche says it can also achieve 78 miles per gallon and emit just 70 grams of CO2 per kilometer.” On the “To Buy” list. I will laugh at Lance in his highway patrol car.