You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em

24 07 2019

I would give five bucks to the candidate who’s willing to say: “Hell, yeah, I’m a politician—and a damned good one!”

I know, I know, we’re all supposed to hate politicians and love the mavericks and outsiders and ‘jes plain folks’ who’ll stand up to the corrupt and immoral insiders.

Blah blah blah.

This is of the same piece as “those who can’t do, teach”, which, yeah, as someone who teaches, I find irksome. But more than the personal jibe at such a non-doer as myself, I’m irked at the falseness of the statement: teaching is doing, and it’s hard.

I work at it—the syllabus, the readings, the assignments, the lectures and discussions, all of it—and some days I’m great and some days I’m not; overall I’d give myself a B+. I wouldn’t mind taking a class from someone like me, but, honestly, I’d also want professors who were better than me.

And you, the dumb-ass who thinks teaching is nothing? You know nothing.

You see where I’m going with this, right? Being an effective politician is hard. Politics is a (sometimes glorious, sometimes fetid) mess, and being able to balance all of the competing concerns and different interests and principles and practicalities and rules and ratfuckers and flying monkeys to get anything done requires more skills than are dreamt of in such casual dismissal of the role.

So I want to vote for someone who embraces that role, who gets that just because anyone can run for the job—which is great thing, really—doesn’t mean that anyone can do the job. And to do the job well? You gotta learn, get better, become a pro—become a politician.

That’s a good thing, and should be recognized as such.

Not gonna happen, tho’, I know.


You see, got my brother down cause it’s nothing to me

16 07 2019

I have nothing to say about the racist bag of maggots currently befouling the White House—nothing beyond curses and sputtering, that is.

He’s a terrible man and a terrible president with terrible policies enabling the worst of us. And that he has a good shot at re-upping his tenure is really more than I can handle right now.

I don’t follow any pro-Trumpers on Twitter—Twitter is my junk food, and I prefer my snacks in salty left-wing, artistic, academic, or animal form—but I do run across them online, and, honestly, . . . huh.

The outright racists who love him, okay, that makes sense. While I only understand racism on an intellectual level—I don’t get on the gut-level why anyone would want to be supremacist—I can identify it as an interest that the maggoty misogynist meets. And the cynics, like Mitch McConnell, who’ll excuse anything to get what they want (tax cuts, 19th-century judges): again, the interests intersect.

But the people who consider themselves principled, moral, who support him? Are they just lying to themselves about their morality? Are they in denial about the awfulness of The Donald?

There’s a fair amount of anger I hear from them, and fear about coming breakdown/SJW totalitarian takeover, and it’s not hard to read that anger-fear as its own justification. It’s also a handy way to deflect responsibility from one’s own actions: Look what you made me do!

That doesn’t seem enough, though, to explain how we could look at the same Tweets or hear the same speech or at fucking children in cages and reach such radically different conclusions about them. It’s ideological, yeah, but that’s hardly a sufficient explanation.

This might be where political psychology comes in, which is extremely not my bag. I don’t have anything against it in general, but it’s always seemed to me that the ‘political’ piece loses out to the ‘psychological’; since I want to understand political phenomenon as political, I’ve been leery of anything (incl economics or orthodox Marxism) which reduces the political to mere epiphenomenon.

Still, since I take politics as necessarily a scavenger field, dragging in economics and culture and religion and passion and psychology, etc, perhaps I simply need to get to diggin’ in other areas of this messy yard. I might never get it, but at least I’d have a better sense of the disconnect itself.

Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning

14 07 2019

I am a dope.

I hate hot weather, hate being sticky, own an air conditioner, muscled that air conditioner into a window a week or so ago, and. . . I don’t use it.

I hate being hot and sticky and have a way to be neither and I don’t take it.

Right now I’m sitting in my chair with a fan propped in a window and angled toward me. Still, I’ve got my shirt half rolled up and if I move a body part even a smidge out of the blowing air it will start to sweat.

It’s not that bad out, actually: temps should fall below 70 overnight and it’s not humid, so sleep (with, again, the fan angled toward me in bed) should be fine. It’s just that it takes awhile longer for the cool of the outside to push aside the day’s accumulated heat.

And tomorrow, tomorrow shouldn’t be bad, either. Tuesday will suck, and Wednesday, even more so; my line for turning on the a/c is over 90 and humid during the day, over 75 and humid at night, and it looks like that line might be breached.

And yet odds are even that I’ll rely on my fan to wave around hot air rather than shut the windows and let the a/c clear out all concerns about the weather.

So, yeah, I’m a dope.

Mexican kids are shootin’ fireworks below

4 07 2019

We shamble on. . .

But since we also have kids in cages and adults bundled like fasces behind walls:

There’s much to like about this country, much to celebrate, but if you’re not also angry and ashamed, then I wonder about the nature of your celebration.

As for the rest of us: let us take what is good and use it like a lever to overturn what is not.

Come put out your eyes

2 07 2019

University websites are of the devil.

One of my on-again off-again jobs requires me to find information on college and university websites (those offering associates and up only), which means that over the years I’ve probably looked at every single one of those websites (3000+) at least once, and a fair number, two or three times.

It sucks dirt.

Community colleges tend to be less awful, i.e., more straightforward. Maybe they have less money to throw at “innovative” designs, or maybe the people in charge of the website have less patience for bullshit, or maybe the would-be students of those institutions have somehow convinced the site designers to just give out the information already.

Elite schools, arts schools, and small liberal-arts “name” schools are often the worst offenders. Oh, here’s a website that will open with a series of scrolling images and rah-rah pull-quotes and advertising copy. Maybe there will be links to Degrees and Admissions and whatnot in a taskbar, maybe those links pop out at the menu icon, but once you click on the desired link, you are welcomed to a whole new set of scrolling images and rah-rah pull-quotes and advertising copy.

Oh, and blog posts, because of course you, a prospective student, want to read what’s happenin’! at Admissions.

You think I’m exaggerating? I am not. Consider Johns Hopkins University. Go ahead, click on the link.

Now tell me, how long does it take you to find what are the requirements for admission as an undergrad?

You can find the link either at the icon or on the bottom, which then takes you to a page which requires you to click either undergrad (with a separate link to the Peabody Institute—good luck if you don’t already know that that’s the place for performing arts) or grad, then, when you click on undergrad, you get this:

You think, Huh, I might want to apply, so let’s hit “Application Process”, then scroll down a bit to find this:

Nifty, you think. Now, what are the GPA requirements? What scores do I need for the SAT and ACT? Oh, look there’s a link to “Deadlines and requirements”:

Huh. A list of deadlines. . . wait, here’s this illustration-quote-thing:

Excellent! Just what I want. . . oh, this is just an image, I can’t click on it for more information.

Well, there is at least a link to “Standardized Test Information”, which, hmm, tells me how to submit my scores, what JHU will do with them, how they’ll calculate repeat test submissions—which is useful, yeah, but since I don’t know what the cut-offs are, how do I know whether or not to retake?


Okay, I see, there’s an FAQ link up near the top: that oughta tell me something, yes?


All rightly, then, let’s just click on every damned link on the Admissions page. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

Ah, here’s something useful, via Discover JHU/Get the Facts: a snapshot of the Class of 2022, which includes “middle 50th percentile” SAT & ACT scores. Okay! If I’m above those numbers, I should be good, right? And maybe take again if I’m way under. . . ? What about slightly under?

I can at least find out how much everything (tuition, housing, etc) costs: just a hair under 75 grand for on-campus students, about 70Gs for off-campus.

Well, then.

I pick on Johns Hopkins because a) I had to try to find information on their website today and am thus still irritated, many hours later; and b) for a non-artsy school, it’s one of the worst.

I have nothing against Johns Hopkins as a university—it’s a very good school—but if I were some first-generation-college kid from podunk Wisconsin trying to figure out whether I should take a shot at applying to it? Fuh-getit.

That might be the point—they only want students who don’t actually need to use the website for information—but I doubt it. I think the site was designed by people who think, Ooh, this’ll look good on a phone or tablet or whatever, who like how clever/inspirational/creative it all is, but who haven’t a clue how people who haven’t a clue how universities work might actually want to use their site.

Now, it’s possible that this does work for some subset of students, and that admissions counselors are available to fill in all of the blanks, but, man, it is also possible that this joint would intimidate someone into not even bothering to contact that counselor.

(I know, in fairness I should do my alma mater. I have no faith that it will actually be good, but, sheesh, it can’t be worse than JHU.)

Having done this job, I know too much how colleges and universities are organized to have a good sense of how an undergraduate might navigate the site for information—do they know that the bulk of undergrad programs would be in a college of arts & sciences or liberal arts? do they understand general education or core requirements?—but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re almost as useless for current as for prospective students.

And faculty? Staff? Ha, right.

So, I gotta ask: if these sites are garbage for prospective and current students, for faculty and staff, then just who in the hell are they for?