Nick S. writes: I only half-follow the various arguments about Public Education, but I am inclined to respect Kevin Drum's perspective, so I was interested when he offered some praise for a surprising new entrant to the debate.
Heebie's take: I agree with M.'s take, that American schools as a total entity aren't failing. But his solution is to repair the schools serving the poorest students, which I think is misguided. Fix the underlying poverty and the schools will be fine.
This feels vaguely embarrassing to admit, but what I won't do for a thread topic. I find this song kinda sexy:
Obviously I'm setting myself up to be mocked. But you can share your own sexytime song here, and set yourself up, with me. Or just do the mocking, you coward.
I feel like I'm being Slate-contrarian, but this list of micro-aggressions against people of color seems... counter-productive. I assume the target audience is people who are on autopilot on the subject of race, and when I put those glasses on, this makes racism look like something you can shrug off, and get on with your day.
(Not all of them. Some are worse than others.)
Now that everyone's all over Is Santa White?, I'd better post Chris Y's post pronto, so we can just have one single Santa conversation.
Chris Y writes: How old were the commentariat when they stopped believing in Santa? Over here we have a storm in a teacup over a vicar who mentioned to a bunch of Primary school children (aged 5-11) that Santa was based on St. Nicholas, and apparently it's "ruined their Christmas".
But one of the parents who was complaining has a 9 year old! I can understand the little ones being a bit upset, but surely by the time you're nine you ought to have got real? Looking back, I'm pretty sure that any of my contemporaries who admitted to still believing in Santa at that age would have been mocked mercilessly until summer.
Heebie's take: My local cohort is uncharacteristically obnoxious on the Santa question. They want to preserve their children's innocence to (IME) ludicrous degrees. One friend got mad that one of the Judy Blume books - maybe Superfudge? - has a scene where Fudge finds out that Santa's not real, and she had to cover. As in, this wasn't "Oh well, that popped the bubble" but more like "WHERE'S THE BUBBLE GLUE, STAT!"
I only remember being agnostic on the Santa question, and not thinking about it very hard. Then at age 4 or 5, I found the wrapped presents ahead of time and figured that the issue was now settled.
Let's have a presents Q&A, where you can ask for help with specific gifts. Obviously you'll receive a bunch of worthless answers about dick pics, but you can try.
For example: I'd like to get Jammies' sister something small that she likes. She likes pretty things but absolutely not something with a silly or gimmicky edge to it. She also is in to photography, so an attractive photography-accessory would be ideal.
Let's have a complain-o-fest. I'll start: I hate writing final exams.
Your turn: what's wrong?
She's super poor! No she's not! Yes, well she was!
A study by the Economist and Yougov showed that, at the end of November, only 6% of Americans approved of the job Congress is doing. My question is: where did the crazification factor go? What makes this particular question immune?
Also, this ignorance test seeks to highlight how uninformed everyone is. I won't color your preconceptions by sharing exactly why I think the guy running it is a fucking idiot, before you have a chance to take it for yourself.
I think of myself as someone who will not go to heroics for an elderly pet. But I am actually someone who just agreed to pay $500 for parathyroid surgery for a 15 year old cat.
(The vet clearly felt that the surgery was minor enough, and the quality-of-life gains great enough to go for it. He has a great deal of credibility with me, for never having upsold me on anything in eight years, and for being frank when it was time to put the other cat to sleep.)
Also over the holidays: I went to cut a piece of pie, and the closest knife was a ceramic one. I asked my brother how he liked it, and he said, "It works well, but it's very fragile." I said "Oh, have you broken them?" He said "Not so far. But could you use a different knife for that?"
Gentle readers, how fragile exactly are ceramic knives? It was an apple pie, in a glass pie pan. If they can't handle an apple pie, what are they good for? (Obviously my suspicion is that he was being ridiculous. But maybe not!)
When you turn over essential services to private companies, things like this happen.
A private ambulance service that transported more than a half-million patients a year in six states abruptly shut down without explanation, leaving dozens of cities and towns scrambling for medical transportation options Monday without a word of warning.
And if you're the CEO (references to First Med already scrubbed) of a company that pulls a move like this, then I'm praying to a god I don't believe in for the soul I don't think you have.
Aha: Here's the little snake. You wonder why employees roll their eyes at messages like this.
Riffing off of Amazon's unmanned drone delivery system, I have a prediction: We agree self-driving cars are obviously technologically good to go, but too eerie for public consumption. I bet that over the next ten years, the order of social approval and legal approval goes:
1. unmanned drones for delivery purposes
2. unmanned drones with human passengers
Thereby thwarting the whole self-driving cars thing, because there's no emotional precedent for being in the driver's seat in the sky. Traffic and rules will have been established for unmanned drones, and crash data will be established when people start hopping on board.
3. roads will still be driven by people in cars.
Good stuff from David Simon on the horror of Two Americas. Lots of things to be said, but let me just note a couple. There's not a simple relationship between the degree of injustice and the point at which someone picks up a brick, and we're well past the critical mass in this country when, if someone started a mass protest, you would say, "Well, we had that coming." Not that I think that's going to happen here, because--and I don't think Simon mentions this--economic insecurity isn't just a symptom of unfettered capitalism, it's also one of its key methods of control: so many people's position is so precarious that they can't risk doing anything that would jeopardize their job or benefits--which is to say, lots of people might join a wave of protest, but very very few are willing to start one (this seems like a truism, but contrast with Iran where, despite crushing economic conditions, you can still count on extended family to take care of you if you're jobless).
Of course, I would say that: people almost never see these things coming, even when they see all the reasons for them to happen.
The only time I feel particularly self-conscious about my body is when I see my family. Who knows if it's true, but I believe I'm being graded and assessed on my weight-loss progress since the last time I saw them.
Usually it goes like this: after a day or two of feeling self-conscious, I mumble something about how I'm exercising a lot and watching my portions and food choices. My mom says something helpful back like, "Have you thought about a food diary? Often people don't realize how many little things they're eating." (Dad doesn't say anything, but keeps a running commentary on the bodies of other women, so.)
This time (over Thanksgiving) I was feeling pretty good about myself, relative to the past five years, mostly due to the weight-lifting portion of Crossfit. I didn't feel the need to say anything. On the second or third day, my mom said something about the new science of the biodome, and fecal transplants, and how they made fat mice skinny, and vice versa. Maybe I should try probiotics?
1. Hooray! My virtuousness was not on the table as the reason I look how I look!
2. I thought I was doing ok, though. No?
and then a week later, when I thought back on it:
3. Wait, is she actually implying that medically I'm not okay? (She's really not. If asked, she'd say something like "I think you look fine! But I thought that you might feel better about yourself if you lost the rest of the weight?" Yes, but no, but I guess that's thoughtful?)
I actually think that my parents are about normal for weight-obnoxiousness, for their generation. I hope I do not transmit this down to the next generation, though.
I know this is way too feel-good for you jaded curmudgeons, but still I enjoy that famous longitudinal study where they started off measuring all the traits of 300 strapping young Harvard lads in 1938 and follow them until they died. (Speaking of, I haven't seen 56 Up yet.)
Key and Peele keeps on making me happy. I saw a link to the Obama's anger translator sketches a while back, and was amused but didn't follow up, and then somehow got around to watching all the back episodes. For anyone who hasn't been watching it, a surprisingly convincing bit of funk that I've been humming to myself since I saw it:
So, what do you do while listening to live music? For what portion of the time are you actually contemplating the music? Or are you just lost in thought, but in a way that is enhanced by the live music? Or people-watching, but in a way that is more interesting or exciting for the live music? Let's suppose the music is too loud for conversation or conversation is inappropriate. I'll tell you what I do: get bored out of my skull. Or pull out my phone. (I find it very hard to tune music out and let my thoughts drift. So the music ends up being something that is impeding my good time.)