In a conversation at the Southern Tech football forum, conversations about high school came up, which reminded me somewhat of of an odd thing that’s not so odd. It turned out, people who didn’t know each other had gone to the same high school. There are roughly 150 public high schools in the greater Colosse area, and a lot of people who went to Southern Tech weren’t from Colosse to begin with, and others went to private school.

Yet, as it happens, when people who are generally from Colosse get together and start chatting, the same high schools keep coming up. Very few from Colosse Consolidated School District. Most from the suburbs. And even then, most from the “right” suburbs. I went to Mayne High School, which is very well regarded and thoroughly upper middle class or lower upper class. Next door to us is Southfield High School, which is about the same size and is a little more economically mixed.

Some of you know of Vikram Bath and others remember him by his previous name. He and I had never met until we ran across one another in blogs. And lo and behold, we went to the same high school (at the same time, it turned out, with a few friends in common). This happens with Mayne High School. Before I asked, I half-expected that we might have gone to the same high school. I almost never run across anyone from Southfield out in the wild. And even high schools that I have very limited contact with, on the other side of the city, I meet people who went there.

I’m sure it comes down to economics and class. The places I am likely to run into people are going to filter through whether or not they went to college or not, and Southfield kids go to college with less frequency. The same applies to the other high schools that come to mind, most of which are upper crest. Most of which located near their own Southfield, where I far less frequently run into someone I know.

But it has the weird effect of seeming like contrived writing. Like Colosse is a fictional city (heh) and the writers only have so many high schools that they’ve bothered to identify, so characters all come from those schools.


Somewhat relatedly, a decade ago they closed one of my middle school’s rival middle schools. Sort of. What they did was built a nice fresh new school a few miles over. They then didn’t invite any of the kids that went to the old school to go to the new school. By sheer coincidence, the new school was places do that it would mostly draw affluent kids from nearby schools, thereby giving the kids who went to old school space at some other old school. My school district really was ruthless when it came to such things.

This is going to be the subject of another post, but they’re in the process of demolishing Mayne High School and rebuilding it. Same spot, same kids going there. The district recently expanded to add two new high schools, and it just wouldn’t do for Mayne – the wealthiest – to have the second oldest facilities.


Category: School

I noticed a few days ago that the remote to the TV went missing. Also missing, was one of the PC remotes for the TV PC. It’s not uncommon for things to go missing in the somewhat messy living room, but I was surprised when after I cleaned the room up both were still missing. I have another PC remote, so that wasn’t a big deal. The regular TV remote, though, that stung. especially since I was planning to subscribe to Netflix and wanted to use some of the features of the Smart TV. I do have a couple apps on my phone, but they’re kind of a pain for anything involved. Which using the Smart TV is.

Knowing that one can never have too many remotes, I went ahead and ordered one from Samsung. It was set to arrive on MLK Day because Amazon doesn’t give a crap what days the Postal Service considers holidays it just wants them to get it done. Unfortunately, whoever delivers on off-days won’t deliver to our house, meaning that it was stranded at the post office.

I made due with the app on my phone. But I did resolve to get the living room in working order. And so I did. While vacuuming the sofa, I discovered there was a hole in the lining somewhere. And at the bottom I felt a couple lumpy things that felt an awful lot like remote controls. The sofa had really eaten them. I ended up putting the sofa on its side, which Lain thought was the coolest thing ever.

cave

“I’m in a cave!”
“I like it better this way. Is this a cave? I’ve never seen a cave before!”

She also set up the cushions and a couple other things and hopped back and forth across the room (after the sofa was put back upright) and told me how she was “crossing the river.”

Lain, as I think I’ve mentioned, doesn’t walk much.

Her talking about the cave and the river made my day. Moreso than finding the remotes. And five books. And some keys to something.


Category: Home

For the first time in a long time, I am a Netflix customer. I did the Netflix thing for a year or so (?) when we lived in Estacado, but then we hit a financial rough patch and things had to be cut and Netflix was one of them. It was not an amicable separation as they made the claim that I hadn’t returned DVDs I had returned, and then charged me $30 a piece. (I could have purchased them on Amazon for less than half that.)

But, bygones!

I mostly got it because their children’s programming is supposed to be pretty good. I haven’t poked around too much, but it… doesn’t seem bad, at least. So maybe we’ll have it for a while and then we won’t. Lain has learned to load up and watch videos on the tablet, which is a mixed blessing. The idea of Netflix occurred to me when we were watching an Amazon Prime video on phonics. YouTube also has a good app for kids.

It’s just amazing how much stuff there is out there.

Despite the above-mentioned bad experience, I am genuinely impressed by Netflix the corporation. One thing in particular jumps out at me, which is that they pivoted really quickly to streaming video and did so before they had to. A lot of the time when a company gets the sort of market position that Netflix does, the tendency is to sit on it until someone innovates around you. In this case, they made the determination pretty early that streaming was the future and basically retired their own business model.

Anyway, with football season over I was able to scale back on our satellite service and still come out way ahead.


Category: Elsewhere, Market

Some Trump opponents argue that we shouldn’t “normalize his election.” It’s a losing argument and not likely to convince anyone of anything. In fact, it’s likely to make some people defensive who can otherwise be brought to oppose Mr. Trump or at least some of his most egregious actions.

The intention behind the argument

Trump’s campaign was based on an unprecedented appeal to racism, xenophobia, and violence. (Or “unprecedented” for the candidate of a major party since World War II.) A good number–perhaps small, but still too many for comfort–of his supporters identify openly with the “alt right” or other white nationalist creeds, and one of his “senior” advisors used to be an editor for an online magazine that gave a voice to some alt right groups. Further, it appears that Mr.Trump has either declined to disavow them, waited too long to disavow them, or has been too equivocal in disavowing them. (For a dissenting view, see Scott Alexander.)

There are other sins, too, and I haven’t even touched on the in some ways more disturbing implications of Mr. Trump’s presidency for foreign policy.

Those who say “don’t normalize” the election are saying this is no ordinary transfer of power. They’re pushing back against a tempting story that goes, “well, two people ran for election and one of them won, so let’s all come together and support the new president, and better luck next time to the losers.” The “don’t normalize” people are saying that approach is insufficient. It doesn’t represent the gravity of what has already happened and doesn’t create a bulwark against what might happen. In a very real sense, that approach makes “normal” that which ought never be normal and until recently wasn’t even openly sayable.

An unnecessary hurdle

But raising the “don’t normalize” argument creates an unnecessary hurdle for Trump opponents. With the “don’t normalize” argument, they now have to explain what normalization is, why it’s bad, how not to normalize, and how any given action a “normalizer” undertakes actually constitutes normalization–all that before and in addition to criticizing anything of substance.

And the what’s, why’s, and how’s are more difficult than it might seem from a Trump opponent’s perspective. For one thing, what does it mean as a practical matter to “normalize”? As Noah Millman has said,

If people who opposed Trump refuse to “normalize” his government, what does that mean? That they will, literally, refuse to recognize its authority — refuse to pay its taxes, resign from service in its military, and so forth? Surely not.

I’ll add that it’s impossible NOT to normalize (for certain values of “normalize”) without making some very difficult decisions. If you have a 401k or an investment account, are you prepared to disinvest from any stocks or bonds that have a stake in “normalizing” the new presidency–which is pretty much all of them? Are you prepared, as Millman says, to refuse to pay taxes, etc.? Do we start a civil war? If so, who do we kill? (For the record, I disavow killing or civil war. I’m pointing out that one reductio to which the “don’t normalize” talk can go is to a call for violence. Again, that’s not something I’m willing to endorse.)

More from the same Millman article:

I think what people mean when they say that we can’t “normalize” Trump’s behavior is some some version of “we need to keep reminding people that this is not normal.” But the “we” and “people” in that sentence are doing all the work.Whoever says that Trump shouldn’t be “normalized” is implying that somebody — the press, perhaps? — is in a position to decide what is normal, and to inform everybody else of that fact. But that’s not how norms work, and neither the press nor anybody else is in a position either to grant or withhold recognition to the new government.

In fact, the word is a way of distracting from one of the crucial jobs at hand. Trump, for example, is on strong legal ground when he says that he is exempt from conflict of interest laws. But laws can be changed — and in this case, perhaps they should be. To achieve that requires making a case, not that what Trump is doing isn’t “normal,” but that it is a bad thing worth prohibiting by law. Saying “we mustn’t normalize this behavior” rather than “we need to stop this behavior” is really a way of saying that you don’t want to engage in politics, but would rather just signal to those who already agree with us just how appalled we are.

What is to be done?

I don’t know the answer to that question. Perhaps because Trump hasn’t even assumed office yet, “don’t normalize the election” might be a more winnable or at least plausible argument because he hasn’t had a chance to do much yet other than signal certain policies and criticize people’s acting ability. Maybe when the time comes, we can follow Matt Yglesias’s suggestion and focus on the actual policies and humdrum of politics.

Or maybe we could do more than that (although we should probably do that). Take Rebecca Trotter’s blog. She’d possibly disagree with my admonition against the “don’t normalize” argument, but even if she does, she offers concrete things we can do in her series of “daily acts of resistance” posts and her ideas on “what resistance to Trump looks like.” I’m don’t read her as often as I should–and I’m not prepared to say I necessarily agree with her ideas for resistance–but she’s offering something concrete.

Envoi

Maybe Trump is an authoritarian who may bring us closer to the coming next presidential tyranny. Maybe he’ll turn out to be the weak-willed, thin-skinned, incompetent his actions so far suggest he is. A third possibility is that he’s just a regular politician who’ll both modify, and fit in to, the institutional norms and incentives that are the presidency.

I realize there is real fear out there. Perhaps events will prove that fear unfounded, but I can’t and won’t deny that the fear is genuine and plausible. I’m not part of the demographics most likely to be targeted by what’s going on, and I realize that this fact gives me a detached view that others can ill-afford to take. My historian’s sensibility warns against judging people who are in circumstances I can never understand perfectly. But I do believe the “don’t normalize” argument at best will simply not work and at worst will help foster a defensive reaction in favor of Trump.


Category: Statehouse

Some people did a thing, and some folks are not pleased:

The perception of the London commuter as an unfriendly curmudgeon has been bolstered by the mixed reaction to a mystery campaign to encourage tube passengers to chat.

Badges emblazoned with the question “Tube chat?” have been distributed on the London Underground network, to the horror of some regular users.

Transport for London (TfL) said it was not behind the badges, which are identical in font and design to the official “Baby on board” pins given to expectant mothers.

Commuters were quick to express their disdain for the idea, for which no individual or group has claimed responsibility.

I… sort of like the idea? As an introvert, maybe I should hate it. Or maybe I should love it, since I can decline to wear one if I’m tapped out and people will not bother me? It seems to actually cut across the introvert/extrovert divide, with both sides seeing problems. “Why should someone need a button for me to talk to them?” The extrovert asks.

But those who are not especially socially attuned don’t always pick up on the cues that make the distinction between being friendly and being a bother. This comes up in gender discussions a lot because women often both (a) don’t want to be bothered by strangers unless (b) they are the right strangers. And guys have little or no idea whether they are the right stranger or not. When women complain, men often hear that they’re going to get their heads ripped off if they get it wrong. When men complain, women often hear that men just want license to trap women in conversations that it would be rude to escape. It’s not reasonable to expect women to take all comers, nor is it reasonable to expect men to be mindreaders.

As it applies to that, it also applies to just talking to people. Social dolt that I am, I am not good at picking up on the cues. The only real exception are smoking habitats. You can sort of tell if someone on the smoking deck doesn’t want to talk by their body language and location. If they’re off to the side, or tilted slightly away, you need a reason to talk to them (“Do you have a light?”

For the most part, though, smokers tend to be a really social bunch and if you’re in the communal area, the threshold for starting a conversation can be really low. Which was, really, one of the coolest things about smoking for me. It kind of put me into low-pressure socializations. My social skills improved a lot because of smoking. It provided me an environment where I could understand the rules, and where not wanting to talk to people had to be a conscious decision. One that I would sometimes make, and sometimes not make.

So any sort of opt-in or opt-out mechanism for sociability seems to be in the best interest of everybody. It doesn’t solve the gender problem before (because it’s as likely to be person-specific, not situation-specific), but it’s a start.


Category: Elsewhere

Let the Texans have their truck. Leave the rest of us alone. Sedans are also authentic.

-{Originally Appeared on Ordinary Times}-

(more…)


Category: Road

{Note: None of the videos themselves are especially interesting. They are chosen for the music.}


Category: Theater

While visiting home, I’ve been listening to some good ole country music. One of the artists has been James McMurtry. One of the songs that came up is this one:

This song was written in 2005, as a protest with an eye on the re-election of George W Bush. There were many of its kind, though this one was particularly good. It focused a bit on blood overseas but mostly depression at home. The title, “can’t make it here anymore” relates mostly to manufacturing. As far as economics go, the song isn’t great as it decries both the low minimum wage and the fact that jobs are being sent overseas. To Singapore, of all places, which to my knowledge is not exactly known for low wages (though, importantly, does rhyme in the appropriate place).

mcmurtryWhat’s noteworthy about the song is that if you listen to it in 2016, it’s orbits around being something of a Trump anthem. Not just a matter of manufacturing and the like, but the haunting apocalyptic feel of it. The jobs are being shipped overseas and the factories are closing, but drug abuse and crime. He was talking about much of the same America that Trump was. McMurtry would be horrified by the comparison, and perhaps rightly as their prescriptions for what ails us do not perfectly overlap. But that gets into the specifics, and neither Trump nor McMurtry are models of internal consistency and deliberate policy.

McMurtry himself was at least somewhat aware of the potential for his lyrics to come across the wrong way, as he throws in what Clancy and I call a “Not Racist!” verse, in reference to Singapore:

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in
Should I hate ?em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away

The view from Asia may be entirely different. Which is to say, you don’t hate them for taking the jobs, but hating that they have the jobs might still not go over super well. That’s not something Donald Trump has expressed particular concern about. And McMurtry sings about “Will I work for food, will I die for oil, Will kill for power and to us the spoils“… Trump has talked about the spoils of war, but without the air of disapproval. Though the slogan “America First” has a loaded history and a lot of baggage, I don’t consider the sentiment behind it – to an extent – beyond the pale. But it does run contrary to the one-worldism of the contemporary left, and explains in part why they did leave the 2005 visions of James McMurtry behind.


Category: Theater

This is the state flag of Louisiana:

louisiana-flag

It is not a good flag. Not the least of which because it does not even have the instantly recognizable symbol of Louisiana, the fleur de lis. Given that the fleur de lis represents French Louisiana and not the entirety of Louisiana, it’s forgivable that the flag is not just that, but stylistically that would be a nice looking flag. Better than the pelican, anyway. But it’s just the pelican. The state bird. Feeding its children. Heartwarming, I guess, but most states would kill for a symbol like the fleur de lis to put on their flag.

What’s really weird is that it’s not like Louisiana can’t do flags. New Orleans has a flag that’s okay. And Acadiana, a region of Louisiana, has a flag that is darn near perfect:

acadiana-flag

The kicker is that the Acadiana flag was designed before the state flag of Louisiana. Sort of. A variation of the pelican flag was in use since the Civil War, but they updated the design in 1912, 1991, 2006, and 2010. So it’s not like they just haven’t gotten around to doing anything about the mediocre flag. They have just stubbornly refused to actually change it into something worthwhile.

A good flag is one that you see everywhere. Maryland isn’t exactly a jingoistic state, but they do love their flag. Washington DC has the pride of the slighted, and use their flag liberally. Texas gave itself a nickname based on its flag. Alaska and New Mexico used their great flags liberally.

I have spent a fair amount of time in RL Louisiana, and I never see their flag anywhere. I see the Acadiana flag a lot more often. That’s an indication that their flag is better than the state flag! That is what a flag is supposed to be.


Category: Statehouse

Seattle is cracking down on greedy landlords:

After many months of process, the Seattle City Council voted 8-0 to restrict move-in fees imposed on tenants, and give renters more options in how they choose to pay these and other costs associated with moving.

The legislation is part of what Councilmember Kshama Sawant has called a “Tenants Bill of Rights” — a methodical unveiling of renter-friendly laws that, when taken together, can be viewed as a complete package.

Sawant introduced the legislation last summer with the Washington Community Action Network, a local advocacy organization. It takes several unprecedented steps. For one, it restricts the security deposit and non-refundable fees — often labeled as cleaning fees — to one month’s rent. Second, it will allow tenants to pay the security deposit as well as last month’s rent in installments.

What’s interesting to me about this battery of regulations is how it runs almost the opposite of the problems I’ve seen with dubious landlords back in Colosse. Back there, it was never really an issue about what they would do to you when you moved in, but rather what they would do once they had you. After you’d moved in.

A long time ago I was chatting with a newly-wed friend from Canada who was apartment hunting. He was frustrated because they couldn’t find a good place. Worse yet, the places he did find wanted a six month or year-long lease. I wasn’t quite sure the issue when he said that, though. Was he looking for something longer? No, he was aghast at the notion of signing a lease. Only unscrupulous landlords in Toronto did things like that. If their apartment was good, then why would they want to lock you in?

This was the opposite of my view, to a degree. We always wanted a lease because a lease locked in the rent. As long as you were on that lease, they couldn’t raise it on you. And after that, it was often open season. And that, rather than the things Seattle is seeking to regulate, was always the issue. They would have low introductory rents, often with the first month free or 30% off the first three months and whatnot. The goal to get you to move your stuff in. Then, once you’d moved your stuff in, they would often had some formula explaining how much they could gouge you for to line their pocketbooks without tipping you towards moving.

Rent going up after the end of the lease was norm, even if rents for new tenants was holding steady and introductory offers were getting better. So the very things that Seattle seeks to combat, gouging them at the move-in, was really a non-starter. If I’d wanted to regulate the Colosse market, it would combat the opposite thing as Seattle.

Which makes sense, to a degree, because of the different markets. The Seattle rental market is pretty tight and therefore being able to find a place at all can be a challenge. That, in turn, gives landlords an awful lot of leverage. Meanwhile, in Colosse, expansion occurs in all directions and there is not shortage of places. So to get you to notice them, they need to have big signs saying “First month free!” or something of the like. The only time they do have leverage over you is once you’re moving there. So that’s when they turn the screws to subsidize the people that just moved in.


Category: Home

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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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