A nice thing to do for a loved one, if you notice that person seems particularly overwhelmed, is to offer to pitch in with chores at his or her living space. Washing the dishes, tidying up the kitchen, cleaning a bathroom—these little things can really help.
Caveat: it's got to be a living space in which you regularly spend time. "Let me clean your bathroom" would be a straight-up creepy thing to say if you're not around said bathroom once a week or more.
Other nice gestures and the part where you all tell me I'm wrong: in comments please.
Hershey's is bad people
Apparently Hershey Candy Corporation tapped into a student exchange program, and took foreign students who were paying up to $6000 to spend a summer in the US, and put them packing in production lines in Pennsylvannia. They gave them night shifts, and garnished their $8/hour wages for all kinds of nonsense. The stories are things like "At the airport they charged me $800 for security deposit on a one-bedroom apartment that I shared with four other students which was out in the middle of nowhere, and rent was $400 a month, and after they took out all these odds and ends from my paycheck I made $85, and I borrowed a bunch of money from my folks to come here and I'm ashamed and miserable."
(It's not the 4-to-a-room that's the problem, obviously. It's enslaving the students with bogus financing.)
Eventually students staged a walk-out, and the situation came to the attention of the officials. Anyway, now you can't buy any of the following, or at least not without feeling guilty:
Good & Plenty
Good & Fruity
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Reese's Pieces, and the other "Reese's" products
York Peppermint Pattie
And Skor are really delicious, so this just sucks. Thank god for candy corn.
Let's start with this comment from Tweety:
I have decided I'm too old to wear sneakers to work (if you can call school that) every day, so I've started wearing oxfords when it's not rainy.
This past weekend, I was in a weird place, shoe-wise, heading to a dinner for which my bright red Saucony sneakers would have been too informal and yet my black leather dress shoes would have been too formal. Oh my!
The shoe choices in this middle ground seem to skew heavily towards Top-Siders and their ilk, and I really—really—hate those shoes. (But not on you, dear reader! Just on me. Why, I'm sure you're on a boat right this very second!)
So, I've been contemplating, and I think I'd like the shoes pictured below the fold. However, I'm hesitating, because I have a lingering association of Doc Martens with the Nazi-punk idiots prevalent on the scene when I was sixteen.
Should I get over this hesitation or look for alternatives? I solicit your input.
Conferences, Hotels, Miscellaneous
In general I don't like conferences. You have to do all this planning to cover your life that you're missing; you have to constantly be on acquaintance-levels of peppy, and I get bored easily during talks. I'm at one now, though, and the wonderful sleep I got last night has really put the whole thing in a rosy light.
This is the first hotel where I've been told I'd get a $5 voucher for food if I hung the "Please Don't Clean" sign on my door handle. So I did, because that was an easy trade-off. Unfortunately, I assume the house-keeping staff is getting screwed by this transaction, though, even though I have no guess at the specifics. And even though I have no evidence from this particular hotel. Then I found my $5 voucher.
Performance Art, Or Just Obnoxious?
Ile sent in this link to a blog written by a personal trainer who is deliberately spending six months gaining weight and not exercising so that he can demonstrate the effectiveness of his exercise and diet plan. He's almost through the weight gain period, and has put on sixty pounds or so.
Fundamentally, I want to smack him -- I'm not sure why I find this so irritating, but I do. And substantively, I'd think that any results he gets don't demonstrate anything about effectiveness: someone who's been a gym rat for years and takes six months off exercising may look out of shape, but they're at a totally different level of fitness than someone who's genuinely out of shape. So no real lessons to be learned, but I thought the link was annoying enough to amuse people.
Shake Down, Break Down
I've spent part of my morning chasing down three ex-roommates who owe me various amounts of money for past bills and rent. Some observations:
I'm so clearly a pushover, it's pathetic.
Money owed between friends/family remains a very awkward thing for me, and I'm not totally sure why. I totally tense up just thinking about it.
1. Now that's what I call entertainment! I give you the text of the page of the 2008 Christmas Cracker (a commonplace selection) dealing with the Marquess Curzon; text blockquoted to one level is the commentary supplied by the commonplace selector, while text blockquoted a further level is the commonplace selected:
The future Marquess Curzon of Kedleston (1859–1925), at the age of nine, wrote to his parents from school:
A hamper is undoubtedly requisite under the present circumstances. It must contain several pots of superior jam.
When he was thirty-five his style hadn't changed much. He wrote to his American fiancée, Mary Leiter, who was about to visit England after a year's absence:
Wide open and eager with delight will be the lover's arms into which (given a reasonable seclusion) you will spring, and already in anticipation are being formed the kisses that lips will leave on lips.
I remember Quentin Crewe telling me a story of Curzon at Hatfield. It was Sunday night, and he waved away the cold beef. The ensuing conversation went like this:
Lady Salisbury: Do you not care for some beef, Lord Curzon?
Curzon: I prefer to wait for the hot dish.
Lady Salisbury: I'm afraid there isn't one. On Sunday nights we like to give the servants the evening off and we just have cold meats. Do you not do that at Kedleston?
Curzon: No, Lady Salisbury. When I entertain, I entertain.
2. A deftly executed transition. By way of turning from coffee (from coffee, you ask? Yes—via the concept of entertaining, of course) to what is put in it, I quote (with your kind permission) from the recently published SEP entry on metaphor: "No human being literally is or literally could be a dollop of viscous potable dairy product I could literally stir into a piping hot breakfast beverage."
3. A curious delight explained. What is it about the misadventures of urple which so compel our attention? Is it just the spectacle of someone who can't seem to accomplish the everyday tasks of being aware of what's in his fridge and coördinating his milk to his cereal? I have a theory. It is not urple's comical ineptitude that thrills us, it is the way we see, reflected in it, something we know from our own lives. Who has not on occasion insisted that it's no good—nothing will work—it simply can't be helped! No, we say, we've already thought of that! There's a reason, too, for its inevitable failure—we may as well reconcile ourselves to some unhappy fate, since any suggestion that we do otherwise simply seems unworkable or impossible. Our friends who think it can't possibly be as bad as all that look on and offer suggestions, only to be meet with elaborate and sometimes contradictory replies. We all, I assert, know this phenomenon. But even if we have later had to admit that it wasn't as bad as we thought, we at least generally encounter such catastrophic thinking about grander subject matters than milk. And there is something amusingly bathetic about seeing such efforts as urple's expended on this comical topic.—especially since urple must be capable of negotiating larger challenges.
Big fucking pet peeve
We had a good reason to eat at Chili's recently.
In the bathroom there was a hand sanitizer dispenser over the toilet:
There was a note over the hand sanitizer:
This is completely insane. I really can't stand the undercurrent that some people are grody and their skin oozes grodiness and you need to wear an aqua lung with regulator hose, or at least bleach everything in sight to avoid contamination. I'm pretty sure "grody" is shorthand for "poor" or possibly "slutty" in this context. Having this stupid thing built in to the stall, complete with note, just legitimizes the stigma, and raises the expectations on bullshit cleanliness.
It's important to have coffee at your house if you're going to have out-of-town guests who drink coffee. The style of coffee you provide should be commeasurate with your space/wealth of your kitchen - on the low end, keep a jar of instant around. If you've got plenty of storage space, go ahead and buy a coffee maker.
I think that non-coffee drinkers might just not be tuned in to this. At one point, a friend was subletting her place, and buying extra equipment to stock the kitchen. I told her, "Buy a coffee pot, in case your renter drinks coffee." My friend said "Oh, she does drink coffee, but I told her to buy her own, because I don't want to own one." I was appalled that we were over-thinking new garlic presses and new colanders (also because there are boatloads of those at Goodwill) but a coffee maker was a nonstarter.
What It Takes For White People To Notice Racism
I thought this article from the Times last week was interesting, on mixed-race families and the issues they encounter. A fair amount of it was just stories of family members who are perceived as white encountering racism aimed at their visibly non-white family, which isn't so much a special issue for interracial families as just that racist people think anyone who looks white agrees with them and white-looking people in interracial families are well placed to see that happen.
But it's weird how much of an issue interracial (mostly black/white -- issues are much more muted for other ethnic groups) marriage/dating still is in the US. According to a Gallup poll I just looked up, 77% of Americans approve of interracial marriage (and only 17% disapprove), but you wouldn't know it from US movies or TV. I started watching the 2005 Dr. Who last year, and did a double-take at the working-class blonde dating a black guy treated as an entire non-issue: I'm not saying you wouldn't see that relationship on US TV (I'm about five years out of date -- I do own a TV, but I'm, e.g., watching six-year-old British SF on it), but I'm pretty sure it'd be treated as an issue, not just as how they happened to cast the roles.
I remember having the same thought watching Hitch (look, I also don't get out to the movies very often): Will Smith's love interest was Eva Mendez, which looked to me like threading a needle. If they'd cast him opposite a black woman, they'd lose the white moviegoing audience because it would have been a black romantic comedy, and they obviously weren't going to cast him opposite a white woman. It's peculiar seeing the issues laid out so schematically: with polling like that, why is this still treated as a taboo?
Guest Post - JBS on trade deficits
Shearer writes in:
I saw this article "What Would Keynes Do?" by labor lawyer and author, Thomas Geoghegan, in a local library and then found it online along with some responses (here and here). I wasn't that impressed with the article which seems to me to be more about what Geoghegan would do than what Keynes would do (for example I don't remember Keynes being as obsessed with trade deficits as Geoghegan claims). Nor was I that impressed with the responses. Yglesias makes the same mistake about average and marginal rates (claiming that since the trade deficit is only 5% of GNP only 5% of stimulus spending will leak abroad) that lefties ridicule with respect to average and marginal income tax rates. And plans to revive manufacturing employment in the US seem more based on nostalgia than realistic analysis. But I think the bigger point is that our current problems are complicated and poorly understood meaning even people with broadly the same politics will disagree about what to do.
I don't agree with the last sentence. The current problems are well-understood by people on this very blog. And people with the same broad politics, say on this very blog, broadly agree about what policies should be adopted.
I agree with the second to last sentence.
I didn't go read Yglesias's response, so I'm sitting out the third to last sentence, or the other responses, per the fourth to last sentence, or Keynes, per the second sentence.
I did read the link.
I'm going to do my response Memento-style.
It's Natural to Wonder
Where was my mom? Well, she left my step-dad briefly after he threw my brother down a whole flight of stairs for using the "wrong tone of voice" in addressing her. She saw and heard him verbally abuse us all the time but it was kind of like a joke at the same time? Calling my brother a "fat, useless sack of shit" every day as he went out the door to school doesn't really seem all that funny, looking back on it, but there you are. We lived at my grandmother's for maybe two weeks, and then they reconciled and we had a family conference about how things were going to get better.
Maybe two months later my brother and I were at home babysitting my little sister while my mom and step-dad went out to eat, and we sat in their room and had a discussion, and realized shit was just as bad as ever (I was maybe 14 and he was 11). So when they got back we said we wanted to have another family conference about how things weren't any better at all. Then my mom just pointedly left the room. My step-father said if we ever said another word about it to anybody he would kill us, and that he could kill us a lot faster than social services could come around asking any questions, so we should shut the fuck up. At that point, we shut the fuck up.
Yes she knew he was sexually abusing me (infrequently and not terribly as that kind of thing goes) later, like when I was 15 (why I think this is so OK I don't know, maybe John Derbyshire has the answer). Again, it was a topic of black humor and sometimes rebukes (directed at me). She also encouraged my relationship with asshole photography teacher; we would have him over to eat and they would send him upstairs to "put me to bed." She was drinking and using like crazy then. She's been sober almost 16 years now and has apologized. She says it's the thing in her life that she regrets most. Part of the reason I'm afraid to do this workbook thing is that I'm afraid I'll get angry at her. We have a good relationship now, and I don't want to fuck it up. What would be the point? But maybe I should be angry. If someone did that to my daughters it'd be time to look for a shovel.
Here is a carrot I just ate:
It looked altogether too human. That is the butt side, because the crotch side, below, even has pubes:
If you remember, a couple of months ago I was all wrecked in the comments about a friend who'd had a massive brain aneurysm: he was paralyzed on one side, unable to speak (that is, he could produce articulate syllables, but couldn't say anything). When we visited, he looked to me as if he understood everything that was going on, but I figured I was probably kidding myself.
Latest news is that he's walking without a cane, and talking with difficulty, but enough to make it clear that he understands everything going on completely. The doctors are figuring he'll get most of the use of his bad hand back as well, although that's coming a little slower. He's apparently way out on one end of the bell curve for results -- no one was expecting a recovery half this good.
Maybe Other People Should Burn Other Shit Down?
Matt Yglesias has an interesting post on the cooptation of some of the early successful bloggers by media:
When I started out, a "blogger" was by definition not a real journalist. He might have been a college student like me or a professor or an anonymous scribbler working a day job. Today, the New York Times publishes lots of blogs and most of us early bloggers who met with success have gotten hired by someone or other. By and large, that's a good thing and represents good sense on the part of established media institutions. Still, there is a cost and in my sentimental moments I miss the gold old days. I don't accept the view that the alternative to being an "insurgent or outsider force" is to be "an organ of the Democratic Party" but the political arena is shot through with tensions around the desire to be a player in the struggles between the powers that be and a desire to be a critic of the entire system.
I know many feel that Ezra Klein has gone too far down this route when he moved to the Washington Post. I just find myself...not reading him as much, except when someone links. I mean, I read it much less often than I used to read his previous blog. Honestly the format is a turn-off? Maybe I don't like what he has to say? It's nice to see him get wonky on healthcare issues but there is some merit to the complaint that he has become "an organ of the Democratic Party." I have met Ezra personally a number of times and he is a great guy, so I don't want to trash his work or something. But it's interesting that epitome-of-reasonableness Kevin Drum has somehow been moved to Ezra's left by the economic conditions and the grotesque condition of the current Republican party.
Aaaaand, take it away Bob!