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.

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School’s out forever

14 06 2019

I wasn’t much for graduation ceremonies: I went to my HS graduation, but skipped both my undergrad and grad ones.

And my high school ceremony kinda sucked. I mean, it was fine, but we voted on a class song—Van Halen’s version of “Happy Trails”—and the administration nixed it as too, I dunno, fun. And the speech—which, again, was fine—was more for the parents than the kids.

Anyway, here’s a speech worth listening to. The first half is the usual thank you thank you thank you, but then it gets. . .  interesting.

Brava.

h/t Jezebel





As sure as your sorrows are joys

26 04 2019

Reading something else, I came across this, and decided, what the hell, let’s listen:

That’s nice. Long, languid, a bit of a urgency, then easing back; fits a late-night mood.

~~~

I didn’t know much about Traffic, so wasn’t really a fan, but my college therapist, N, was.

I remember her referring to “Stevie Winwood.”

Stevie. I knew “Steve Winwood,” who’d come out with a solo album in the ’80s. I had a copy, and must have mentioned it to her.

Huh, I just looked him up on YouTube, and one of the suggestions was for “Arc of a Diver.” I think that was the song she mentioned, described to me. I can still see her motioning her arm over.

That wasn’t my song, though.

It’s not that I was a huge Steve Winwood fan, but there was one night, at the Regent St Retreat, when “Higher Love” came on, and I just, I just danced.

In a time I mostly stumbled, this night, a regular week-day night, after work, I just danced, closing my eyes and wrapped in the glow of the dance floor lights.

I don’t know if I told N that—I told her so few good things—but wouldn’t it be nice if this was what I mentioned to N, that this is what prompted her to tell me about her own fondness for Stevie Winwood.

I’d like to think that this was something good that we shared.





Hush, hush, keep it down now

10 04 2019

Over 8 years ago the economist Robin Hanson wrote a  post on “gentle silent rape.”

It was a thought experiment, an attempt to understand why rape is punished more often and severely than cuckoldry, something he found “puzzling,” given that, as he had argued in a previous post

Biologically, cuckoldry is a bigger reproductive harm than rape, so we should expect a similar intensity of inherited emotions about it.

Men would rather be raped than cuckholded, he’d said—no mention is made of what women prefer—but in trying to figure out what, besides sexism, could account for the discrepancy in the social response to rape and cuckholdry, he wrote that

It occurred to me recently that we can more clearly compare cuckoldry to gentle silent rape. Imagine a woman was drugged into unconsciousness and then gently raped, so that she suffered no noticeable physical harm nor any memory of the event, and the rapist tried to keep the event secret. Now drugging someone against their will is a crime, but . . . .

Now compare the two cases, cuckoldry and gentle silent rape. . . . Consider also that it tends to be easier to prove cuckoldry than rape, so if we avoid applying the law to hard-to-prove harms, that should favor punishing cuckoldry more than rape.

I cut out all sorts of nonsense—by all means, go read the entire, short, post for yourself—as it focuses on what should be the appropriate punishment for cuckholdry (fines? torture?), and I, like so, so many others before me, want to focus on the gentle silent rape.

Why now? Well, I heard a couple of interviews with Miriam Toews, a Canadian author who wrote a novel based on the real-life mass drugging and rape of Mennonite women by Mennonite men in a Bolivia, a years-long ordeal which was only exposed in 2009.

I’d never heard of this before, and I won’t go into the entire, horrifying and enraging tale here—again, click on the links to read what happened—but upon listening to an interview today I was reminded of that old Hanson post: Hey, didn’t some economist write about the relative non-harms of rape of which the women have no memory?

It was a bonkers post, one which Hanson continues to defend (while declaring that any mention of him as pro-rape is “bordering on slander“). Hey, he’s just, y’know, asking questions.

I’m all in favor of asking questions, and it’s important for scholars to turn conventions inside-out. To analyze a phenomenon fully, it makes sense to poke at it from every angle, to press even on the sore spots.

But if, as Hanson claims, you’re simply “trying to understand the world and work out puzzles and theories,” then you’ve got to bring those puzzles and theories back to the world you’re trying to understand.

He says he’s a “nerdy intellectual type” who’s “probably personally less able to and inclined to think those things through,” which is a helluva statement from someone who’s trying to understand the world.

It’s also irresponsible as hell.

By all means, apply your “simple evolutionary heuristic to ask roughly what would we guess the overall level of concerns about these things to be”, but then you need to, as the economistically-minded are so fond of saying, “mark to market”, to see if that heuristic or puzzle or theory actually does tell you anything about the phenomenon you’re prodding.

Had he done so, Hanson might have come across the story of the Mennonite women in Bolivia, might have considered whether gentle silent rape was even a thing worth conjuring, and whether he had any understanding of harm, much less the world, at all.





I try to imagine another planet, another sun

4 03 2019

JT introduced me to Rickie Lee Jones back in Sellery A.

Those were the days of vinyl and hanging out between classes and Terri, Terri, you gotta listen to this, the needle placed just so on the first track:

And as that fades, the notes slowing into silence, this kicks in:

Eighteen in a dorm room in Madison, the sun flooding in, and just JT and me, just listening.

The lyrics scatter across the music, a mosaic less of sense than mood, and then there’s this:

I’m not asking so much

I try to imagine another planet, another sun

Where I don’t look like me

And everything I do matters

To be nothing and everything, to run away and be fully there; I’ve been scampering across that teeter-totter ever since.

I wonder if that’s why, even though I’m middle-aged, I don’t quite feel grown: isn’t growing up about managing, getting past, that all-or-nothing? To come to terms with one’s presence in the world?

I haven’t, yet. Over 50 years old and I haven’t, yet.

It’s not all bad; it’s not even mostly bad. It’s okay, it’s fine.

But how can that be enough? Shouldn’t there be something more to this, one, life? I want that something more, to leave my fingerprints on something beyond me—not (just) to be remembered, but to have known something beyond myself.

I used to, back in those days. It wasn’t complicated: there were things I wanted and so went for. Not everything, (not everyone. . .) but a lot, and maybe it was running but it felt toward, not away.

Well, then the ground gave way, and gravity was suspended. Took a long time to learn how to walk again.

But it’s also been awhile since I’ve been walking, and I know, I know, I’ve written variations on this theme too many times before, but my steps don’t always reach the ground and I could use a bit of gravity.





I count the spiders on the wall

26 02 2019

So, being middle-aged apparently means I don’t sleep well and even thinking about food makes me gain weight.

I do not like this. I like sleep and not-gaining weight.

I’m pretty much right in the middle of what counts as “normal” or healthy for my height, but clothes that had been loose are snug and there is a roundness that I can no longer ignore.

I’m not terribly vain, but, goddammit, I do not like how this looks or feels.

So I decided to lose a bit of weight—literally, just a bit. I’m a small person, so while even small gains are noticeable, it won’t take much for my clothes to stop hugging me.

Still, I want something a bit more precise than my jeans to keep track, which means that I have, for the first time in my life, purchased a scale.

Now, I’ve certainly weighed myself before. We had a scale when I was a kid, which I used regularly, and I’d weigh myself weekly on a magnificent old scale in the locker room at the U of Minnesota’s rec center.

Kinda like this.

But after I left Minnesota my weight-measuring days dwindled to not-quite-yearly doctor’s visits. My weight has been mostly stable, and I figured that my clothes would tell me when I’d gained a few.

Well, them clothes be yellin’, and I thought, Goddammit, if I really want to keep track of my weight, I’m gonna have to, y’know, keep track of my weight.

So I bought a goddamned scale, weighed myself, and have decided that weekly weigh-ins were the way to go.

Now, all of this is the prelude bait to the actual switch: this is less about the weight than the scale, and what it does.

It measures.

Shocking, I know, but in the past decade (or. . . two?) I’ve become rather anti-measurement. For example, I used to track my running times, and then at some point I thought, This is just stressing me out, so I stopped wearing a watch.

I used to balance my checkbook, but at some point I thought, Geez, I can get the balance at the ATM or online, so what’s the point?

I have a list of all of my cds and I still maintain a database of my books, but for a shit-ton of other matters, personal and professional, I just let it all go.

That wasn’t the worst strategy, honestly, but it has had the unintended effect of making me shy away from all kinds of non-work-required measurements and tracking, and increase my anxiety over said measurements and tracking.

Which is ridiculous, especially since the results, when I finally do check them, are usually fine.

Thus, my decision to purchase a scale was one small blow against denial, one small step for self-accountability, and one small way for me to calm the fuck down about myself.

It’s ridiculous, I know, but it just might work. A bit.





I really don’t know life at all

11 02 2019

I have been insufficiently cynical.

Tough to write that—cynicism has been my schtick since I was in high school—but the accumulation of more-and-less recent events have clearly revealed that I have been a goddamned Pollyanna about my fellow human beings.

Oh, I know, people can do terrible things great and small, that we are selfish and mean, blah blah. Big deal. I can say we suck all day long and even believe it, but does that belief emanate from the very marrow of my being?

Apparently not.

Now, maybe this is good, maybe this is bad, but I feel like I’ve caught myself out.

Example: Howard Schultz. I know, but this isn’t about yet another rich guy’s delusion that making money qualifies one for the presidency; no, this is about his dumb-ass comments that billionaires shouldn’t be referred to as such, but as “people of means” or “people of wealth.”

Yes, the billionaire who thinks his billions qualify him for the White House doesn’t want us to foul his pure air with such noxious terms as “billionaire,” but to be kinder, gentler, toward such sensitive souls as himself. To notice his massive pile of money is simply. . . unseemly.

You’d think I’d be disgusted by his disdain for social welfare and horror at a wealth taxOh no! after paying a shit-ton in taxes I will only have a mega-shit-ton of money left!—and I am. But rich people grabbing at all of the monies is nothing new.*

No, it’s the goddamned sensitivity about the rest of noticing that they’ve grabbed all of the monies and the expectation that we should cater to those sensitivities. Your gaze wounds me! Avert your eyes!

Yes, we’re supposed to pay attention to him because he’s a billionaire but not that he’s a billionaire. Uh huh.

*Okay, I’ll be honest: the depths to which rich people will go to get more riches does shock me. I’m aware of the concept of loss aversion, but once you have so much money that everything is effectively free doesn’t this concept lose its mojo? Aren’t we now out of the realm of cognitive biases and into that of sociopathy?

Consider the Sacklers, the crazy-rich family behind Purdue Pharma and one of the main drivers of the opioid crisis. They denied oxycodone was addictive, even as

Kathe Sackler, a board member, pitched “Project Tango,” a secret plan to grow Purdue beyond providing painkillers by also providing a drug, Suboxone, to treat those addicted.

“Addictive opioids and opioid addiction are ‘naturally linked,’ ” she allegedly wrote in September 2014.

Jeez, I remember this episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Or you could compare the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma to the executives at Omni Consumer Products (RoboCop, natch).

I mean, the Sacklers’ desire for MOREMOREMORE MONEY is beyond cartoon villainy, and yet, there it is.

I don’t get it.

Money is useful—that I get. It’s portable and transferable and in a society in which you must pay for goods, necessary. I’ve been broke and not-broke, and not-broke is better. But how much beyond not-broke do you have to go before you can say, “okay, enough”?

I’d guess that we’d all have different beyond-lines, and that we’d probably side-eye each other’s lines, so, okay. But not to have any lines at all? Not to have any concept of “enough”?

I guess, in the end, that doesn’t shock me. It puzzles me, but doesn’t shock. But the willing reduction of one’s life to the pursuit of MORE MONEY, the expectation that MORE MONEY is all there is, all that matters and ought to matter?

That’s fucked up.