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Isolation

Posted by Ogged
on 12.24.16

Here's a kind of poll I'd like to see. Take a cross-section of America, including outliers who are relatively privileged and relatively not, sequester them from news and commentary for four years (including Facebook rants), and ask them at intervals what's salient or different in their lives. For how many of those people would the answer be "nothing"? For how many would it be many things? I suspect I'd be in the former camp (pun?), and if I turned off the news spigot, I could hibernate out the next four years and barely notice. Presumably a lot of people are going to do exactly that.


 

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Parenting Tip

Posted by Ogged
on 12.23.16

We've had a washlet for a long time, and about six months ago, we convinced the kids to start using it. Haven't had to wipe a butt since.


 

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Skills

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.23.16

"It IS a pretty specific skill set," writes E. Messily.

Specifically, Armstrong is the only individual Borrone knows who is both capable of communicating with her in tactile sign language and completing triathlon events.

In more mundane skill sets, I'm trying skiing today. I skied once, when I was 18. Then I decided to try snowboarding. Every few years I tried snowboarding, mostly unsuccessfully, for the next 20 years. Today I am throwing in the towel.

I would throw in the towel on all mountain sports, except it turns out my kids are being exposed to snow sports growing up, and it'd be nice to have the option of being included. That is more or less how I feel about boating sports in the summer, as well. (Both via Jammies family.) I did not grow up in a family that ever went water skiing or snow skiing, and now I'm raising these outdoorsy upscale kids. Weird.


 

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Guest post: mossy gristle

Posted by Ben
on 12.22.16

Actually, the title Mossy Character provided was "Putin has a point", but he also said "the mill, may it be gristed", and I, of course, being a Pogo fan, insist on turning that into "gristle". This prelude is here only because I have basically nothing to say about his actual provision of material, to wit:

Not that Russian imperialism is a good idea, but that the Soviet Union was not without virtue. I inherited a vague Cold War animus against the USSR, which deepened with studying its history, but it wasn't all nukes and gulags. From a long excerpt from an oral history mostly about the post-Soviet era:
In Dushanbe, I worked at the Academy of Sciences. I was an art historian. I thought that books...that what men had written about themselves was the truth...But actually, it's only a tiny sliver of the truth. I haven't been an idealist for a long time now, I know too much. This girl comes in to see me all the time, she's unstable...She used to be a famous violinist. What made her lose her grip? Maybe it was people constantly saying to her, 'You play the violin - what good is that? You know two languages - what for? Your job is to clean up, sweep the floors. You're nothing but slaves here.' [Moscow] This girl, she doesn't play the violin any more. She's forgotten everything.
And the post-Soviet Central Asia of today:
Often without work permits, marginalized, subjected to abuse and extortion as well as not infrequently racist violence, many of these guest workers understandably turn to their faith as a means to sustain dignity. A Tajik, Kyrgyz, or Uzbek who would not have known the way to the nearest mosque in Dushanbe, Bishkek, or Tashkent becomes a practicing Muslim in Moscow, with at least some falling under the influence of hardline clerics [...] 80 to 90 percent of ISIL fighters from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have been radicalized and recruited while in Russia as migrant workers.
After the whole totalitarian nightmare thing, the USSR was actually progressive on most of the things most of us care about. (To my very limited knowledge. Do I sugarcoat? Enlighten me, Mineshaft!)

I dunno, I mean, that first step sounds like a real doozy, to me.


 

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Guest Post - a small game for the blog

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.22.16

Nworb writes: 2016 wasn't all bad! You can congratulate yourselves -- we can all congratulate ourselves -- on making it through the whole year without stabbing a cow-orker or manager. Explain in comments which particular example of self-restraint you are most proud of.

Heebie's take: blunt recall games like this are unbelievably hard for me. Any of the year end recall-and-summarize tasks are impossible. However, I am a champ at putting details from my life in chronological order - it's not like I've forgotten the past year. It's just the retrieval on prompt that's super hard.

In fact, after I blog each week (on my personal blog), I review the entry, and use those points to make small talk with my mom or anyone else demanding content from my life. (In order to create the entry in the first place, I take notes throughout the week.)

Self-restraint: Probably the time I was being pressured into teaching a fifth course this past fall. But I didn't exercise restraint. I argued and got increasingly upset and finally tattled to a higher-up.

I do have a New Year's Resolution: I am going to get the fluffy cat to enjoy sitting in my lap. I think we'd both enjoy that a lot.


 

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I Like These Odds

Posted by Ogged
on 12.21.16

Phil Ivey was already a poker legend, but this is cinematically great.

In each of his visits to the Borgata, the casino accepted the same five requests. Ivey asked: that he play in a private area; that the dealer speak Mandarin Chinese; that he play with eight decks of purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards shuffled together; that the decks be shuffled with an automatic shuffler; and that Ivey would be allowed one guest at the table, a woman named Cheng Yin Sun.

But he had to give the money back.


 

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Guest Post - TNC

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.21.16

Nick S. writes: Ezra Klein's interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates is great:

Ezra Klein

If I can read into this ongoing debate you've had with President Obama, you're arguing that there are some things in American politics and American life that may be counterproductive to believe even if they are true.
There is an upbeat story about racial progress and unity that is not only more pleasurable to believe but is more effective to believe if you want to, say, elect an African-American president.
And then there's a [more pessimistic] story that is better at predicting day-to-day events, at least right now. But it's a story that nobody wants to hear. To me, the last year or two has been a collision of these two visions -- and I think it's the central tension of the piece you've written.
There's something about seeing America's best racial instincts followed by its worst racial instincts in this way. It's very hard to keep both stories, and both countries, in your mind at the same time. So where are you, emotionally and intellectually, after struggling through this article?

Ta-Nehisi Coates


I'm a big believer in chaos. The history of this country did not necessitate a Donald Trump following a Barack Obama. But it did lay the conditions for it to be possible. You can't be surprised that it happened.

I find it hard to say that Obama's optimism was "wrong" in a global or moral way. But at the same time -- and I think this is what you're teasing out -- I don't think someone who looks at race and racism the way I do, or has had the experiences I've had, could ever be president of the United States. Or would even think to do that.
And, look, religion did not come up in our conversations [with Obama]. But I think religion undergirds a lot of this. This sort of idea that, "At the end of the day, it all works out." Or maybe, to put it less condescendingly, that, "We're on the right side of history, and the arc of the moral universe bends to justice." That's just something I don't share. The sense of destiny that "it will," I just don't share it. There's ample evidence it might not. That's where I come down.
I don't think you have to believe America is chained to its past and is necessarily doomed to reenact it. But when you study civilizations, it tends to be true that history has a weight, a gravity -- if you're going to go in an opposite direction, you need to consciously exercise an opposite force. And I don't see us doing that.

Heebie's take: One of the family therapists I like to read (Harriet Lerner) describes a phenomenon called "change back!" When one individual is in therapy, and decides to change her behavior, then other members of the family system escalate their pressure on the individual to revert to the old patterns. The old way was comfortable and familiar, and this change draws their attention to the fact that at least one person wasn't happy the old way. At the least, they have to admit that the individual wasn't happy - which people don't like doing - and more often, they're trying to avoid thinking about their own issues and unhappiness, and the concept of someone initiating change threatens their house of cards.

I find Changeback! a useful concept to apply to social change. When a social injustice is in the closet, the right doesn't care much about it. When people begin to address the injustice, the right rears up and escalates the reaction with equal and opposite force, even if they don't stand to lose whatsoever by correcting the injustice. So it's completely unsurprising to me that there are two conflicting narratives - one of progress and one of changeback! - and that the collision of these is the central story.

By selective design, the rightwing nutjobs are the most prone to psychological pitfalls that come from doggedly trying to ignore your own issues. (Not the low-engagement Trump voters who just fell in line.) But everyone who is politically active on the right is avoiding their own shit by making life worse for everyone else. That is their coping mechanism - straight up destruction in order to avoid their most painful personal cognitive dissonance.

OK, I'll go read the actual link now.


 

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Theater Criticism

Posted by Ogged
on 12.20.16

There were a lot of amazing images from yesterday's assassination, but I found this one the most unsettling.


And from the guy who took the photo.

This is what I was thinking: "I'm here. Even if I get hit and injured, or killed, I'm a journalist. I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos. ... But I wouldn't have a proper answer if people later ask me: 'Why didn't you take pictures?'"


 

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Guest Post - China

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 12.19.16

Lw writes: Here is an interesting Chinese perspective on inequality:

In one sense, the entire economic history of dynastic China can be understood as the history of struggles against inequality. Numerous dynasties engaged in reform measures such as land redistribution into equal tenements, enacting laws to prevent the wealthy from acquiring large estates by squeezing off small tenants, etc. But even if land ownership was relatively even at the beginning of a dynasty, waves of mergers into large estates eventually swept through the country until tax reforms by the middle of the dynasty had to accept unequal land ownership as a fact.

The story she refers to writing is here, I liked it a lot.

In other news from China, one of the most appalling economic choices there, (using the most powerful antibiotics in existence by the truckload for marginally more profitable pig farms), was banned in November.

Heebie's take: Starbucks coffee really is pretty gross! Greetings from suburban Denver.


 

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