The airport in Zaulem has evidently chosen to go entirely smoke-free. Here’s how well that’s working out:

nosmoking

Everybody in that picture is smoking. I’d say “right in front of the sign” but the signs are pretty much everywhere.

Anyway, it worked out for me because it made me not the least bit self-conscious about vaping away.

Kinda feel bad for those who are just trying to get from Point A to Point B and have to walk across that area, but I’d be more inclined to share in the outrage if there were some place the smokers could go but aren’t.


Category: Elsewhere

LegoHawkingHere’s another article on the Confederados. The settlement of Confederate self-exiles who escaped to Brazil.

Arindrajit Dube is a leading advocate for raising the minimum wage, but also says that food stamps and the like are not subsidies for low-wage employers.

Congressmen are hesitant to be alone with female staffers, which hurts female staffer careers.

Vladamir Putin’s relationship with Texas secessionists is interesting.

Matt Lewis argues that conservative commentators need to better assimilate.

Looking more closely at the Iceland miracle.

Fortunately, since nobody’s going to get killed over this, we can consider it provocative and brave instead of provocative and mean and reckless.

What’s up with the sucky state of American actors? Ah, well, as long as we can keep importing them, no biggie.

Though they say we still need preschool (but do we?), should we work harder at putting a TV in every home, so that kids can watch Sesame Street? It’s almost kind of funny that PBS – which is free – is one of the reasons I am itching to pay money for Satellite.

Hollywood allegedly has a pedophilia epidemic.


Category: Newsroom

WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS

Julie Schumacher’s Dear Committee Members presents English Professor Jason Fitger at “Payne University” and what I presume is only a sample of the numerous letters of recommendation his job requires him to write. It’s an epistolary novel, composed of these letters, letters to the department chair and various university administrators, and, occasionally, his attempts to fill out online forms.

I don’t like Fitger. He represents the to me all too believable caricature of the “oppressed” academics who, to quote NPR’s review, “feel that their genius has never gotten its due.” True to form, Fitger sometimes claims to feel a responsibility to the undergraduates who pay his salary but only rarely does he demonstrate that sense of responsibility by writing a letter of recommendation that actually is designed to help the student get the job or the scholarship or admission letter to grad school or law school or medical school. His letters of rec instead go off on personal tangents about his own and his department’s beleaguered position at the university or about unflattering traits of his recommendees. He’s the type of guy who says, “sure, I’ll write a letter,” but then writes something really bad.

In his letters to the department chair and to people higher up in administration, we hear the familiar complaint of “I know there are budget difficulties” with the added but unstated complaint that “but those difficulties should never have to affect me or my department in any way.” And again another complaint, his creative writing program and the English department itself is disfavored because–The Horror! The Horror!–disciplines like economics are getting more of the pie. A frequent complaint in his letters is about the renovations done for the economics department (in the same building as English, but a floor above), and dust and inconvenience such renovation causes him.

Not that he has nothing to complain of. If we trust him (see below), then it is probably a shame that his program and grad students are being continuously disfavored in favor of other programs.

Still, rare is his acknowledgment that maybe people shouldn’t go into debt to get degrees in creative writing (his bailiwick). And when he does acknowledge it, it’s only to say that creative writing students (if they’re graduate students, if not, he’ll just mis-write a letter of rec while they search for a job to pay their debts) need to be “funded.” And towards the end of the novel, we find the maudlin consequence of the paucity of funding:

 

[WARNING, HERE’S A MAJOR SPOILER]

 

His most promising grad student, working on a novel of a lifetime, loses funding and because Mr. Fitger cannot find a “residency” or more funding, this student commits suicide. There seems to be some recognition of Mr. Fitger’s own role in the case, but who can blame him? He’s in the trenches doing the best he can. Little consideration over whether he advocate restructuring the program so as to make it more appealing or at least better able meet his students extra-academic needs (like eating, mental health, a decent career).

 

[/END MAJOR SPOILER WARNING]

Now, one of the first things you learn in Literature 101 is that you can’t trust the narrator, and exhibit A is the epistolary novel. We see the letter writer’s words–his rendition of events, his recollections, his biases–but we don’t see others’ perspective. In this sense, the maudlin moment [spoiled above] can be interpreted as the way the very self-centered Fitger sifts through and make sense of the sad event.

Perhaps Schumacher does not intend that we like the character. Perhaps Schumacher is exposing vicious academics for who they are. The blurb on the back of the novel tells me that Schumacher has a position at a university and has “written more letters of recommendation than she cares to remember” (quoted from memory, maybe I’ve got it a bit wrong, but that’s the gist). She’s seen what it’s like, so she can call it out. Or she’s seen what it’s like, and she wants to sound the alarm about the “crisis in the humanities.”

It is there I have to decide whether I trust the author, and not merely the narrator. Presumably as an author herself, Schumacher realizes the don’t trust the narrator rule, but does she observe it? Does she want us to take as granted that about which we should be skeptical, or is she opening up the whole things for grabs, as a good (in the Literature 101 don’t trust the narrator sense) author should?

I don’t know the answer. I’ve taken some lit courses, but don’t know all the permutations and explorations of the “problem of the narrator.” Neither have I ever read anything else by Schumacher, so I can’t judge. I also, deep down, would like to believe the author’s intentions are not important, or are of only minor importance. I would like to believe the work should stand or fall on its own. But I find myself going back to the author and distrusting her artfulness, at least in this case. That I do so probably has as much to do with my own “ambivalent about academics” bias as anything. But there you are.

[p.s. I’m out of town and may not be able to respond as quickly as I’d like to comments.]

 


Category: School

But it’s certainly enough of a step in the right direction that should my son want to join, and there is a Troop in the area that does not ban gay leaders, I will encourage him to join & I will volunteer as a leader.  Prior to this, I had decided that my son would not join the Boy Scouts as long as their policy stood.  Which brought me no small amount of sadness, as I truly loved my time in the Scouts, even if I never made it to Eagle.  The Scouting I grew up in was not focused on religion or evangelising, but rather on service to the community.  The push by a minority of religious supporters of Scouting to bring religion front & center has damaged Scouting, and it will take years to recover.


Category: Elsewhere

My friend in Canada was driving his daily commute in Ontario and happened upon an unexpected sign:

welcometowisconsin

Presumably, this involves a movie being shot. Perhaps a new Twilight Zone.


Category: Road

So my daughter has taken a bit to an Android game her pop likes to play

She has not memorized that particular level. She may have played it before, but this was something like the seventh consecutive level that she had solved. She was on a roll. Some of the ones she conquered were more difficult than this one. The biggest issue she has on some levels is simply coordination. On other levels, she doesn’t always understand that you can’t always go the quickest route (because you’ll be cutting off other sets), but she’s starting to self-correct on that with increasing frequency.

The goal, obviously enough, is to connect all of the dots to the dot of the same color. The other requirement is that all of the squares be filled. At the upper levels where it’s 11×11 or 14×14, that can be the really challenging part. At the lower levels, like this one at 5×5, it almost happens automatically. Whenever it doesn’t, though, Lain gets pretty confused because she thinks she has solved the game. She hands it to me and I tap the button to move it to the next level.

In addition to being able to solve a level, it was a big deal for her to be able to know where to click on the “You solved this level, do you want to move on to the next one?” button. This was a big deal for daddy, as it meant that I could give her the game and unless she got frustrated with it, she could keep herself entertained for a bit without my interventioned. Excepting when she would run into a frustrating level, or she didn’t fill all the squares.


Category: Theater

blockbuster

Am I still in the United States? Am I still in 2015?

Notably, Blockbuster has been in the news lately as people have been reminded that they had the opportunity to buy Netflix for a song, but declined to do so. Not sure why thats been making the rounds now, as its been known since 2013.

Im biased of course, since I put Blockbuster in the same list as of Very Terrible Corporations, but its worth noting that if they had purchased Netflix, then Netflix might not have become Netflix as we know it. The same business acumen that lead them to take a pass on Netflix could have prevented Blockbuster from so fully embracing the whole “streaming” thing.

I was a member of Blockbusters mail service for about two days several years ago. It seemed like they were better than Netflix, but that turned out to only be because they hid from prospective buyers their anemic selection. They had an entry for every movie you can imagine, only to find out that most of the ones I wanted were “unavailable.”

Another interesting thing witnessed in Alaska. They have no compunction about having this car in the car rental lot:

rentalcar

If that isn’t an advertisement, I don’t know what is. Well done.

[Ed note, my apostrophe isnt working]


Category: Theater

I’m not much of one for poetry, but occasionally one speaks to me.  This is one of my favorites.

From The Old Astronomer (To His Pupil) by Sarah Williams

Reach me down my Tycho Brahé, – I would know him when we meet,
When I share my later science, sitting humbly at his feet;
He may know the law of all things, yet be ignorant of how
We are working to completion, working on from then to now.

Pray remember that I leave you all my theory complete,
Lacking only certain data for your adding, as is meet,
And remember men will scorn it, ‘tis original and true,
And the obloquy of newness may fall bitterly on you.

But, my pupil, as my pupil you have learned the worth of scorn,
You have laughed with me at pity, we have joyed to be forlorn,
What for us are all distractions of men’s fellowship and wiles;
What for us the Goddess Pleasure with her meretricious smiles.

You may tell that German College that their honor comes too late,
But they must not waste repentance on the grizzly savant’s fate.
Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.

What, my boy, you are not weeping? You should save your eyes for sight;
You will need them, mine observer, yet for many another night.
I leave none but you, my pupil, unto whom my plans are known.
You “have none but me,” you murmur, and I “leave you quite alone”?

Well then, kiss me, – since my mother left her blessing on my brow,
There has been a something wanting in my nature until now;
I can dimly comprehend it, – that I might have been more kind,
Might have cherished you more wisely, as the one I leave behind.

I “have never failed in kindness”? No, we lived too high for strife,–
Calmest coldness was the error which has crept into our life;
But your spirit is untainted, I can dedicate you still
To the service of our science: you will further it? you will!

There are certain calculations I should like to make with you,
To be sure that your deductions will be logical and true;
And remember, “Patience, Patience,” is the watchword of a sage,
Not to-day nor yet to-morrow can complete a perfect age.

I have sown, like Tycho Brahé, that a greater man may reap;
But if none should do my reaping, ’twill disturb me in my sleep
So be careful and be faithful, though, like me, you leave no name;
See, my boy, that nothing turn you to the mere pursuit of fame.

I must say Good-bye, my pupil, for I cannot longer speak;
Draw the curtain back for Venus, ere my vision grows too weak:
It is strange the pearly planet should look red as fiery Mars,–
God will mercifully guide me on my way amongst the stars.


Category: Elsewhere

There was no easy way to get to Alaska, which we knew. And I’m pretty sure that we chose the best way to do it of those available to us. Splitting it up into two days was smart. And it allowed us to leave on the late side the first day. The downside was that we arrived in Zaulem at about 8:30, and had to get up to leave the next day at roughly 3:30pm. Collect baggage and take the hotel shuttle, and you’re looking at less than four hours of sleep. Which makes for a lot of delirium. Unfortunately, though we theoretically arrived at noon-ish on Thursday, we were too tired and exhausted to do much of anything.

Lain was a trooper, for the most part. Despite having really woken up on the wrong side of the bed. She was cranky through most of it, but as events piled on, she actually held stead at the same level of crankiness while Mom and Dad increasingly lost it.

The biggest obstacle turned out to be something that we did a long time ago. We had to upgrade car seats, and the one we got was fantastically safe, was convertible into a cart, and comfortable for Lain to boot. The downside to it was that it was so difficult to install that we ended up just leaving it in the Forester permanently. To take it out to switch cars meant having to put it back in. When making a list of all of the things that made me wary of this trip, the car seat was high up there.

That fear turned out to be justified.

What happens when you have a fantastic car seat that is a pain in the arse to use and you’re traveling across the country? Ultimately, this ends up happening:

laininplane

It takes a lot to get my wife to consent to that, and it was indeed a lot. Getting the seat to fit in was extremely difficult. Trying to cart it around was such a pain that we toyed with the idea of just shipping it back. We still haven’t quite decided what to do.

Important and noteworthy: We paid for extra legroom on the first leg of the flight. We were concerned with the second and third legs because it wasn’t available. This informed out decision to let Lain just sit in the seat because if it barely fit in a larger seat, what were the odds it would fit into regular? Turns out, the regular seats Alaska Air (which handled the second and third leg) offer the equivalent of “extended leg room.” So three cheers for Alaska Air!

Lastly, here’s a picture from the plane:

alaskafromaplane


Category: Elsewhere

Blow Into the CartridgeChina, where wealthy women embark on an expensive campaign to find a status-appropriate man.

You may remember recently I used that Mary Ellen Mark photo of the smoking nine year old. NPR tracked her down, and her life turned out how you might expect. Interesting story.

Why do CEO’s make so much money? A CEO explains.

Atlantis didn’t exist, but here’s where it was mapped.

Jeff Fong argues that California spending more on schools means fewer permits for housing.

Wendell Cox looks at mid-sized metropolitan areas in the United States.

Nap rooms are falling out of favor in the workplace.

Jeffrey Anderson believes that the GOP primary process needs to be revamped with what can be best described as a more caucus/convention-oriented approach.

Rita Arens argues that marriage contracts should be temporary. And that’s as good a recap as any as to why despite my long-standing support for SSM, I don’t describe myself on “liberal” as marriage. Also, I think we should heed the words of Dharma Montgomery here.

Via Hanley, here’s some absurd Brutalism. As we all know, I’m kind of a fan of the style, but these lack the critical utilitarianism.

That’s definitely a Hell of an amusement park!

States (like Connecticut) are often looking for a good excuse to go after homeschooling parents, and some Michigan legislators think they may have found one, and combined with recent events in North Carolina and revelations in Arkansas leave me concerned that “We need to crack down on homeschooling so the government can keep a closer eye on kids” is going to be a more oft-used argument.

Following up on a previous Linkluster, the New York Post talks about the burdens NYC is placing on Upstate New York.


Category: Newsroom

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Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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