Hit Coffee is the story of Will Truman (trumwill),
transplant in the mountain west with an IT background who bides his time
substitute teaching while his wife brings home the bacon.
This site is a collection of reflections
on the goings-on in his life and in the world around him. You will probably
be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the
third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.
Greetings from Callie, Arapaho, a red town in a red state known for growing
red meat. And from Redstone, Arapaho(Aw-RAH-pah-hoe), a blue city with blue collar roots that's been feeling blue
for quite some time.
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.
This website is maintained by Guy Webster (web),
who also contributes from time to time.
Web hails from the midwest and currently lives
in Truman's home city of Colosse, Delosa. He works as a utility IT person at
Southern Tech University, their alma mater.
Also contributing is Sheila Tone (stone) a West Coaster, breeder, and lawyer
who has probably hooked up with some loser just like you and sees through
your whole pathetic little act.
Topekan William Marotta sought only to become a sperm donor — but now the state of Kansas is trying to have him declared a father.
Nearly four years ago, Marotta donated sperm in a plastic cup to a lesbian couple after responding to an ad they had placed on Craigslist.
Marotta and the women, Topekans Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner, signed an agreement holding him harmless for support of the child, a daughter Schreiner bore after being artificially inseminated.
But the Kansas Department for Children and Families is now trying to have Marotta declared the 3-year-old girl’s father and forced to pay child support. The case is scheduled for a Jan. 8 hearing in Shawnee County District Court.
Hannah Schroller, the attorney defending Marotta, said the case has intriguing social and reproductive rights implications.
She said Marotta, a mechanic who has taken care of foster children with his wife, Kimberly, answered a Craigslist ad placed by Bauer and Schreiner seeking a sperm donor in March 2009.
The law in the only state in which I am familiar with the law is that it all depends on marital status. A donor who is married to the mother automatically becomes the father, but a donor who is not married to the mother has to adopt the child if he wants any parental rights and the concomitant obligations.
That strikes me as a much better criteria than the one that Kansas is apparently using (though I think all such contracts should be enforceable). Though I do understand the state’s interest here, this sort of thing is toxic to the extent that we want to encourage alternative paths to pregnancy. I’ve commented in the past that one of the main reason I would never become a donor - including an anonymous one with a clinic - is that some judge somewhere will come to the decision that such arrangements are not in the best interest of the child. This isn’t that, but it would still put me ill-at-ease. (more…)
One of the joys of returning home is the nostalgia. Oddly, a nostalgia for a time I didn’t vigorously enjoy the first time around. But I think that’s how it often works.
On the way home from the airport, we stopped by Happy Burger. Happy Burger is a large regional chain that I ate at so regularly and was so ubiquitous in my youth and young man days that I wasn’t even aware of its regionality. Dad and I used to eat breakfast at Happy Burger every other Saturday, rotating with McDonald’s. Now, my appreciation for HB goes beyond its nostalgic value - it’s some good stuff - but eating there with Dad, particularly on a Saturday morning, is one of the real treats of returning home.
The fridge is also staffed with Royal Crown cola. Mom used to work for RC once upon a time. Dad loves their product. It wasn’t around a whole lot in my younger years because most brand name soft drinks weren’t, but I always knew it was one of his favorites. So it’s nice to see it around, even if I find it indistinguishable from Coca-Cola. (It also reminds me when I was in Deseret. I put two quarters in a coke machine at the apartment complex I lived in and it spit out 31 RC Colas. I loved that machine, though felt sorry for its owner.
Sort of like how I thought Happy Burger was a national chain, I also used to think that Aim toothpaste was one of the majors (Crest, Colgate, Aim). I have since discovered that Aim’s biggest virtue is that it’s dirt cheap and that comes from not being one of the majors (no advertising). I’ve started to get Aim again for purely nostalgic reasons.
Why presidents are less effective than prime ministers. I’d kind of thought this was obvious: Presidents control an office or a branch, while Prime Ministers control executive and legislative. Our presidents would be much more effective if their election assured a congressional majority (or coalition to a majority) (assuming no filibuster). [Northwestern]
Technology against technology. How super glasses may fight the deleterious effects of LCD screens. [Forbes]
Relatedly, a Russian phone company is coming to the rescue, with eInk on one side and an LCD on the other. This is the sort of product I might consider buying for my wife down the road. Meanwhile, Brazil is getting an iphone that runs Android. [Mashable] [The Verge]
Women’s ideal traits in a man change dramatically as they age. I’d be more interested in the results for men. [Yahoo!]
It may be true that states that spend and tax less also grow more, but there are a lot of confounding factors here. A lot of red states are starting at a lower base point, from which growth is easier. A lot of high-productivity states like Washington and Texas can afford lower taxes in a way that Idaho, for example, can’t. [TaxProf]
The Baltimore Sun has an article about the effects of medical malpractice tort. A couple things jumped out at me with this part of the story:
In the Hopkins case, Enso Martinez and his wife, Rebecca Fielding, also claimed their son became oxygen-deprived in his mother’s womb and that medical staff should have performed a Caesarean section sooner than they did. The birth had started at home, overseen by a midwife whose license was later suspended, but the mother was rushed to Hopkins because of complications. The judge in that case excluded evidence about the midwife’s license, saying it would prejudice the jury.
The first bit is about midwifery, which I am broadly supportive of if that is what a woman chooses to do in that regard. And I would support laws that would help women make that choice. That said, one of the things that midwives are very critical of obstetricians about is c-sections. And here we had a midwife who screwed up (or appeared to) and a doctor who lost a massive lawsuit for failing to provide a c-section. When we look at the high c-section rate in this country, the fact that doctors rarely get sued over unnecessary c-sections and do get sued for failing to perform them needs to be thrown into the soup. I don’t even think it’s necessarily even a direct thing where doctors are choosing c-sections in borderline cases for fear of lawsuits, but it contributes to a culture of intervention. I’m not sure it’s something that tort reform would be able to fix, as it’s more about frames-of-mind than anything. It’s one of the things that has me concerned about expanding access with current mentalities in place. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t, but it is one of the things I see on the horizon that disturbs me.
The Wall Street Journal has an article about the expanded access and the lack of providers to provision them:
When demand exceeds supply in a normal market, the price rises until it reaches a market-clearing level. But in this country, as in other developed nations, Americans do not primarily pay for care with their own money. They pay with time.
How long does it take you on the phone to make an appointment to see a doctor? How many days do you have to wait before she can see you? How long does it take to get to the doctor’s office? Once there, how long do you have to wait before being seen? These are all non-price barriers to care, and there is substantial evidence that they are more important in deterring care than the fee the doctor charges, even for low-income patients.
For example, the average wait to see a new family doctor in this country is just under three weeks, according to a 2009 survey by medical consultancy Merritt Hawkins. But in Boston, Mass.—which enacted a law under Gov. Mitt Romney that established near-universal coverage—the wait is about two months.
When people cannot find a primary-care physician who will see them in a reasonable length of time, all too often they go to hospital emergency rooms. Yet a 2007 study of California in the Annals of Emergency Medicine showed that up to 20% of the patients who entered an emergency room left without ever seeing a doctor, because they got tired of waiting. Be prepared for that situation to get worse.
This is something that is going to need to be tackled. We can blame Obamacare for failing to do so, but it at least made moves in the right direction and Republicans have not really been offering their own solutions. At the same time, more doctors and more access will lead to increased costs. Worthwhile costs, perhaps, but it’s something that is going to need to be accounted for.
Despite such significant investments in physician education, the government asks very little in return. Doctors are free to choose what type of medicine to practice, where to set up shop, how many hours to work per week, or whether to practice medicine at all. It should come as no surprise, then, that physicians’ choices so often diverge from what legislators have in mind. In a country with a scarcity of primary care doctors and with many regions suffering shortages of health care providers, this situation is untenable.
Politicians and voters should insist on a fix to this system. An initial approach might be to raise awareness of government spending on medical education among current students. The topic was never broached when I was applying to medical school in 2010, and has not been discussed by my school’s administration since I was admitted. If more students knew that their government was making an expensive investment in them, they might strive to become the kinds of doctors their country needs.
But medical students are only human, and we’re more likely to follow financial inducements than civic callings. State and federal lawmakers should begin considering policies that would force more doctors to go into primary care, work in underserved communities, and work full-time.
My wife will be moving to a “part time” schedule that will almost certainly leave her working more than forty hours a week. A lot of the shift away from “full time” work to “part time” work has to do with the fact that full time and part time take on different meanings in that profession than in others. Physicians work long hours and generally do not retire young (though they do semi-retire, sometimes). Burn out is a serious problem. Further, the problem with “underserved” areas is precisely the commitment it requires.
However, I am in favor of nudging more doctors into primary care. Nudging them into underserved areas is also a worthwhile project. But this should be divorced entirely from the notion that doctors are broadly not carrying their load.
Administrators at N.Y.U. say they can make the change without compromising quality, by eliminating redundancies in their science curriculum, getting students into clinical training more quickly and adding some extra class time in the summer.
Not only, they say, will those doctors be able to hang out their shingles to practice earlier, but they will save a quarter of the cost of medical school — $49,560 a year in tuition and fees at N.Y.U., and even more when room, board, books, supplies and other expenses are added in.
“We’re confident that our three-year students are going to get the same depth and core knowledge, that we’re not going to turn it into a trade school,” said Dr. Steven Abramson, vice dean for education, faculty and academic affairs at N.Y.U. School of Medicine.
At this point, the effort involves a small number of students at three medical schools: about 16 incoming students at N.Y.U., or about 10 percent of next year’s entering class; 9 at Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine; and even fewer, for now, at Mercer University School of Medicine’s campus in Savannah, Ga. A similar trial at Louisiana State University has been delayed because of budget constraints.
But Dr. Steven Berk, the dean at Texas Tech, said that 10 or 15 other schools across the country had expressed interest in what his university was doing, and the deans of all three schools say that if the approach works, they will extend the option to larger numbers of students.
For those wondering, this won’t create more doctors because medical schools themselves are not the bottleneck. Allowing doctors to graduate with less debt is a good thing for doctors, of course. There are arguments to be made that this might help combat the need of doctors to rat-race when they get out in order to pay down their student loans. But it may have no effect at all. There are a lot of factors at play.
It wasn’t so much that LaPierre’s performance made no concession whatsoever on gun restrictions or gun safety — that was to be expected. It was that he launched into a rambling diatribe against an absurdly wide array of targets, blaming everything from media sensationalism to “gun-free schools” signs to ’90s-vintage nihilism like “Natural Born Killers” for the Newtown tragedy. Then he proposed, as an alternative to the liberal heavy-handedness of gun control, something equally heavy-handed — a cop in every school, to be paid for by that right-wing old reliable, cuts to foreign aid.
Unfortunately for our country, the Bloomberg versus LaPierre contrast is basically all of American politics today. Our society is divided between an ascendant center-left that’s far too confident in its own rigor and righteousness and a conservatism that’s marched into an ideological cul-de-sac and is currently battering its head against the wall.
The entire Obama era has been shaped by this conflict, and not for the good. On issue after issue, debate after debate, there is a near-unified establishment view of what the government should do, and then a furious right-wing reaction to this consensus that offers no real policy alternative at all.
I don’t agree with the entire piece, but it broadly explains my discontent quite well. Less about the gun debate specifically, more about the larger dynamic.
Mark Leibovich learned at least 17 things from reading The Economist’s “The World in 2013″ issue. Among them, employers in Japan face fines if employees fatten up. Could Japan’s KFC-Christmas connection be a part of the problem? [NYT] [Yahoo!]
Legos! They’re awesome, expensive, and popular. Here’s why. Honestly, I don’t really care for those product tie-ins. If the mentioned rival sheds that and the costs associated with that, I think we’ll go in that direction. [NPR]
Is correct grammar a form of privilege? Here’s the thing, we can correct grammar overtly and they can take or leave the correction, or we can decline to correct the grammar and know that they will be judged negatively for failing to adhere to standards we’re not overtly enforcing. There’s not a good answer here. [BoingBoing]
A look at Amazon and what makes it so great: Generous shareholders. I love Amazon, but their market position will become worrying at some point. [Slate]
GoogleMaps is apparently better on the iPhone than it is on Android. The Android version on my phone does everything I want it to. My big complaint is the amount of resources it soaks up. The iPhone one looks prettier, which means it may be worse in that regard. [CNN]
HalfSigma writing about smartphones and tablets is catnip to the Trumwill. Here he argues that iPhones are the worst MP3 players ever. The comments about how MP3 playing isn’t what iPhones are for begs the question: why not? There really isn’t any good reason. And especially no good reason that this design mentality should be expanding to other devices:
Grafting the iPhone’s clever, customizable interface onto other products sounds like a universal win. Then again, try using that touchscreen Nano. With the proper dance of carefully aimed taps and flicks, it can do more than any Nano before it. But when it comes to what iPods were built to do—play audio files—the Nano has devolved. The physical playback buttons have vanished. As one Macword reviewer complained when the player was released in 2010, it’s harder than ever to pause or play a track: “You must pull out the Nano so you can see its screen, then wake up the iPod, then navigate to the appropriate screen.” What might have been a one-step operation on the pre-2010 Nano now requires a sequence of three or four actions. And aside from adjusting the volume, the Nano can’t really be operated blind, with one hand in your bag or pocket. A software update this past winter allows for customizing the wake button to perform one function when double-clicked, such as skipping or pausing. It’s an improvement, but not a true fix. Like the iPhone, it still demands your full attention: Both eyes and, in most cases, both hands.
Admittedly, this is a minor detail. But that’s where interface design lives and dies, in the tiny time-savings associated with the simplest operations. An outstanding interface separates the products you love from the ones you simply use. In the Nano’s case, the touchscreen works. There’s nothing broken about it. But it’s clumsy and ill-conceived, given the uses for which it’s supposedly designed. To put a touchscreen on a Nano presumes that a touchscreen can be a universal interface, and that all devices aspire to do all things. But people don’t buy a Nano because they want a mini-iPhone or a micro-iPad. They want something they can shove in their pocket or clip to their shorts when they take a walk or go for a run, a device for playing music on the move. In those scenarios, a touchscreen doesn’t help at all.
As far as smartphones go, there really isn’t any good reason I am aware of that they can’t have a sort of music-playing mode. Why you shouldn’t be able to use your volume keys for stop-start-nextrack-etc in addition to volume control (indeed, my desire to switch tracks or pause-play exceeds my ability to change volume. I mean, I want to be able to change the volume, but generally speaking once I get that right I can simply remove the device from my holster and deal with it manually.
This isn’t just an iPhone or an Apple thing. Everybody has been following their lead and Android still isn’t as good as Windows Mobile 2003 when it comes to this sort of thing (and Windows Mobile isn’t as good as the old fashioned Walkman, for that matter). The push towards fewer and fewer physical buttons is driving this (my old TyTn has almost 20 buttons, it’s successor has 8 or 12 depending on whether you count the directionals, its successor has 7 with no directionals though a zoom scale, and my current Android phone has 7 but all are hard-directed to particular tasks). Other than base aesthetics and a desire to control, I can think of no reason why you can’t have a protruding button (that you can feel through your pocket or holster) that is configurable.
Now, for MP3 playing specifically you can buy a cheaper device that is more specifically geared towards the basic tasks of listening to music, podcasts, or audiobooks. But it still leaves the question as to why this basic functionality should be outsourced from a powerful device to a much less powerful one. I have my Android phone acceptably doing these things, but only due to my willingness to limit my Bluetooth headsets to a very narrow selection (AVRCP-capable, but single-ear) and it’s unreliable and buggy.
Erik Sofge’s comments about automakers is particularly disconcerting. That’s where easy access to doing things can literally be a matter of life and death. My phone has a superior navigation application than my old Garmin GPS, but I end up using the latter simply because the complexity of using the phone would make me more accident-prone. And neither the GPS nor the phone has the embossed buttons that are easier for effortless control. My car radio does, but it’s not clear how much longer that’s going to be the case. I end up listening to audio from my phone in the car most of the time anyway, which I only have embossed physical buttons on my earpiece because of the great care I’ve taken in that regard. I’m not even listening through the earpiece most of the time (I hook it into the aux jack and listen through the car’s speakers), but still use the earpiece for the buttons that don’t exist on the phone itself.
I still refer to the ability to navigate music as The Walkman Test, even through the last iteration of Sony Walkman’s (Android devices) themselves couldn’t pass The Walkman Test.
I can’t have one of these things without at least a couple of links on school shootings. I thought this article explained my discomfort at using high-profile shootings like Sandy Hook as a basis for gun control. [Pacific Standard]
Conor Friedersdort argues that we already had the conversation about guns and the pro-gun side won. I’ve found the notion that we haven’t had the discussion to be bizarre. It’s not a request for a first discussion, but rather a do-over. Recent events could lead to a different result, though. If they don’t here, I am pretty sure they never will. [The Atlantic]
The UN may be baffled, but good for President Obama and his European counterparts for walking out on efforts to turn the Internet over to the UN and ITU. [TechCrunch]
Bobby Jindal’s support for making birth control OTC is actually pretty brilliant. A solid pro-freedom stance that doesn’t define freedom in terms of access rather than in terms of demanding that others provide for it. [Politico]
I have to agree with Matthew Yglesias that Obama’s assurances of sparing recreational users is pretty meaningless. First, we’ve heard this before. Second, it I always worry about selective prosecution in cases like this. [Slate]
And the marriage rate plummets. Almost forty percent of Americans view marriage as obsolete. I may disagree with conservatives on gay marriage, but it’s stuff like this that are why I am sympathetic to them on the subject of marriage more broadly. [Pew]
Anaheim coughs up $400,000 for arresting someone for opossum-cruelty before eventually discovering that residents are legally allowed to be as cruel to opossums as they choose. [Orange County Register]
Government spending tends to increase with term limits. This is considered odd, but it took less than a few years of term limits in local government in Colosse to figure out why: Term limits breed ambition for higher office. If it’s up-or-out, you have to make a name for yourself, which is expensive. [Marginal Revolution]
So, we flew with little Lain across the country. We… had no idea how it would go. Last week, she spent almost every living moment either sleeping, eating, or crying. That did not bode well for our flight. Fortunately, the likelihood that Megan McArdle would be on a flight from Deseret to Colosse. So, if she cried, we would do everything we could to keep her quiet, and we would apologetically at everyone else, but we were not going to deprive our parents a chance to meet their newborn grandchild.
Several things fell into our favor. First, we got a non-stop flight. Now, we had to drive six hours to the airport (instead of two to the airport in Summit). We got three seats together (though I was across an aisle). We had to pay for extra legroom to get the seats together, but even that was cheap and oh what a briar patch that was.
We drove down to Deseret the day before. Lain got very fussy when we crossed the Continental Divide or any major high pass. This bode ill for the flight, if she has an aversion to changes in air pressure. The drive, of course, took longer than expected as Lain declined to synchronize her restroom breaks with our stops for tank refills.
The flight went marvelously. She slept nearly the entire time. There were no explosions. Plus, there were no McMegan’s around. The airport in Deseret’s capital is - no surprise - exceedingly family friendly. They walked us through everything we had to do. They did not require the breastmilk to go through the scanner! (Not that we would have cared.) (They even let me take my way-more-than-3oz of contact solution through, after running some sort of test on it.)
The biggest hassle of the whole affair was the luggage. Three suitcases, three carry-ons, plus a baby carrier. I dropped her off at the terminal and then drove to find a parking spot and joined her later.
Oil wealth has changed the dynamics in Scandinavia. Swedes that used to look down on Norwegians (Who knew this? I did not know this.) are now having to emigrate for jobs. There are certain parallels to the United States. [Slate]
What we can learn from school choice in Sweden. As with so many other things, even though this corresponds with my political preferences, I think there are limits to what a large, heterogeneous country can learn from a relatively small homogenous one. [Forbes]
The French may abolish homework. Here is a good piece on the subject. [New Yorker]
How does your local school district rank against the rest of the world’s? My old district does reasonably well, in the 60-something percentile in both math and reading. Which is kind of scary, for our country and the world. [The Atlantic]
Michael McLaughlin claims, but doesn’t really back up, the notion that anti-meth ads featuring the ravaged faces of drug use, are ineffective. I express skepticism because this is precisely the sort of thing that would have worked on me when I was younger. It strikes at a crucial element of my younger identity: vanity. [HuffPo]
Family values failure [Marginal Revolution]: Fewer children in the United States grow up with both biological parents than in any other affluent country for which data are available. Ashley McGuire thinks the GOP needs to woo women voters due to a War on Married Women. The problem is that a lot of solutions to these outlined problems are not necessarily conservative ones [Weekly Standard].
Two-state solution? Try 8-State Solution. It sounds like an intriguing idea. [Jerusalem Post]
I present to you a Tecmo Super Bowl video of Bo Jackson evading defenders for an entire quarter. Well, the quarters in TSB are five minutes long on a fast clock, but still.
I used to play Tecmo Super Bowl a lot. It was a groundbreaking game, for both good and ill. I played several teams, including the Los Angeles Raiders (Bo’s team) for a few seasons. The Bo Advantage really cannot be overstated. Just hand it to him, and you’re golden.
I never won the Super Bowl with Bo, however. I found it difficult to win with any team because it cheated. Hard. The better you were, the better your opponents would become. It would start injuring your players. You’d start fumbling incessantly. The opposing players would start knowing your playcalls. And they’d suddenly become really, really fast. Passes would be turned into interceptions. In the case of Bo Jackson, I threw the ball all of nine times all season. Eight of those times the passes were intercepted. And then Bo would get hurt.
And eventually you would have to play either the New York Giants or Buffalo Bills or some other impenetrable team.
There was a time when I would start the season just throwing games. Trying to lose or cut the magin of victory. But the early season - before it ramps up - is so incredibly easy that it’s simply no fun.
I finally gamed the system by simulating the first eight games and then choosing the worst team with the most potential. It turned out that was the Philadelphia Eagles, at 2-6. Randall Cunningham (known as “QB Eagles” in the game because he was one of the few players that didn’t sign over his name rights) was really all I needed.
Not that I could use Randall Cunningham, mind you. Because as soon as it got wind of how good it was, Cunningham would be hurt. So I went ahead and started Jim McMahon, the capable backup. So if someone was going to get hurt, it was going to be him (they never hurt all of the occupants of any position). They took out my runningback for a game. Which was a good reminder that I needed to play only backups.
Which I did, finishing out the season at 10-6. They must have known was I was trying to do, however, because they never injured any of my players once I put the backups in. In the second half of the Super Bowl, I finally decided that it was “now or never” with Cunningham and the rest of the started. Randall Cunningham was hurt within four plays and a runningback followed.
But I still won my first and only Super Bowl. I played the Eagles again for another season. I used the same tricks, but I still won too many games and couldn’t overcome the Giants at superspeed and lost before making it to the big game.
The subject of gun control and the gun culture has come up with regard to the Jevon Belcher shooting. It’s no surprise to me that athletes are more likely to own guns, but I am pretty surprised that three out of four do. I have to say that I find it particularly troubling to link events like this to gun control. The arguments for Loughner/Aurora-type shootings are smaller. Murder-suicides can occur with private possession of any gun at any time. [USA Today]
Above Singapore, will there be a green mega-city rising? A part of me is always skeptical of this sort of central planning, but I am always interesting in seeing and learning from the results. And I prefer them to be happening in some other country. [Guardian]
Even if the FCC thinks the in-flight ban of electronics is dumb. I’m increasingly concerned that the airlines themselves will be a roadblock as they make money selling you satellite TV that keep you entertained for take-off and landing. [CNN]
In the relative peace-time drawdown, the army is looking to cut loose people that are obese or overweight. Here is why that might be a bad idea. [WaPo] [Starting Strength]
Is 200,000 miles the new normal for cars? My second-to-last car went 200k. My last car may well make it there. As someone who believes in driving cars into the ground whenever possible, I think this is fantastic. [Allstate Blog]
Fortune has a glowing article on Subaru. I hadn’t realize that the shift towards being more affordable was recent. I am grateful, as it’s one of the primary reasons I own a Subaru. [Fortune]
In New Zealand, they’re teaching dogs to drive cars. [Daily Mail]
Chuck Thompson has a book out called Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession. While researching for the book, he traveled along the south and was, for some reason, not graciously received. He writes:
If it did nothing else, my time in the South did teach me to empathize with Southerners of all political persuasions who are sick and tired of having the honor of their region traduced by moralizing Northern jackasses such as myself (however impressively informed and well-intentioned we might be). For enduring the constant shaming and petty ridicule of the North, Southerners deserve some sort of national medal.
Still, there seems to be something dysfunctionally (and uniquely) Dixie at play in a bellicosity so intense that it leads otherwise intelligent people to the trough of abuse rather than to the table of intelligent counterpoint when confronted with an opinion that’s critical of their way of thinking.
Not for nothin’, but these two things are not unrelated. Beleaguered populations circle their wagons. When someone suggests about how much more awesome the nation would be if it weren’t for those redneck hicks, someone else from the same region making “impressively informed and well-intentioned” criticisms is likely to be met with more hostility and less reason than they otherwise might. That’s not fair to the second person, but it’s also not happening in a vacuum.
As a product of the South, who left and is unlikely to ever return on a permanent basis, I always read these sorts of things on two levels. Substantively, I agree with a number of the criticisms and levy them myself. I disagree with other criticisms. Beneath it all, though, I primarily want the South to be a better place. I don’t doubt that many outside critics feel the same way. Sometimes it’s a desire for the South to simply be like them or agree with them, which is similar but not the same thing. Other times, though, one gets the distinct impression that the South’s role is merely to be that backwards place that thank heavens we are all better than.
The Confederate Flag is one of my ever-present examples. I want the flag to come down. I want it removed from Mississippi’s flag, I don’t want it flying over any statehouses or even any Confederate memorial graves (the Stars & Bars should be sufficient, as a historical relic). Now, I run into problems on two fronts. The first group is those that want to fly the flag and fly it proudly. The second group are outsiders who are demanding that the flag be taken down, but will ultimately heap a similar amount of scorn on the region if they do. Taking down the flag would not, after all, change the fundamental disagreements causing much of the conflict. Even absent the most fundamental thing (or the thing perceived as being most fundamental) - race - the divisions exist.
And, to be honest, as long as the State of Texas is depicted by some lunatic judge in Texas, and people choose to identify the south with the least desirable among them, well… it’s hard for the truly well-meaning to get a fair hearing. I don’t think that this is a phenomenon particularly unique to the South. Along these lines…
One wonders why this Southerner—and others who beat the same drum of outrage—are not instead asking, “Why is a KKK Grand Dragon able to operate a long-running business selling Klan robes, booklets outlining Klan rituals and related disease across from the courthouse in a town square in 2012?”
What, precisely, are southerners or Americans supposed to do to make them no longer “able” to operating such a business? Yet, until they are somehow driven out of business, they besmirch the region? A failure to close down a store on the basis of its politics is “looking the other way”? Objecting residents can boycott, but they are unlikely to be shopping there in the first place. As long as this is the metric by which the South is to be judged, it’s a losing proposition.
There are some similarities living in the non-urban Mountain West, and I would bet the Great Plains as well. What’s The Matter With Kansas and all that. There was a reason that Sarah Palin resonated so. The South, though, is in a league all its own in terms of reciprocal disdain.
I’m not trying to argue “poor little Dixie” here. I am among those that see some serious problems. I may see some things that are not problems or greatly exaggerated mixed in with the critical soup, but that doesn’t constitute much of a defense. I left the region and have little desire to go back. Further, I myself am guilty of the antagonism that I describe. Not towards the corner of the region where I grew up, but towards other areas lower on the pecking order of acceptable-thinking Americans.
A little while ago, I cocked an eyebrow when Mississippi State University announced itself as the location of the Ulysses Grant Presidential Library. My initial reaction to reading this was… not charitable. The more I read, though, the more interesting the story was. I was tempted to be dismissive because, well, we all know how a whole lot of Mississippians feel towards the Civil War. However, if that sort of thing is ever to change, southerners and southern organizations like MSU need to take these steps and need to be applauded for doing so. Skepticism, or holding over the belated timing of these things, undermines the forces for necessary change and emboldens intransigence. It pushes people in the middle away from compromise and encourages the circling of wagons.
I was raised in an extended family that was… not forward thinking, in many ways. With a view of history that does not stand up much to scrutiny. And growing up, I bought into a lot of it. That’s what happens when you’re taught something. Like a lot of people, I moved beyond that. But it’s an attractive myth. Wanting to be proud of where you come from. Making convenient the fact that a lot of the relics that have been passed on from generation to generation involve having been on the wrong side of one of the nation’s great moral struggles. It’s very seductive. It requires little in the way of mental gymnastics to not see any contradiction between having these views and having friends (or at least acquaintances) of color. And those people who talk trash about you and yours? It only helps the myth, really. People telling you that the country would be better off without the likes of you only hardens it. It’s a line in the sand that I was born on the wrong side of. One where it is a challenge to look at the line and agree with the actual dynamics of the righteous and wrong side.
The existence of sides, of course, is not the invention of the South’s critics. It is an invention of history and, to the extent that it lingers, primarily of the South itself. But to erase that line, and for the South to move beyond it, discussions about which Americans are the ideal Americans and which collective groups of people holding the rest of us back are counterproductive. Actions that are wrong should be criticized. People that commit actions that are wrong should be criticized. Looking at collective groups of people and identifying them by the loudest and most intransigent among them breeds intransigence. It empowers it.
Hit Coffee favorite Joel Kotkin looks at migration patterns within the US. As someone that wants our talent to be spread out, I consider it a positive of course that the lower-cost red states are gaining. I consider it win-win, as they’re easing population pressure in the more expensive blue states while helping the economies of the red states advance.
Independents display less motivated reasoning than partisans. In other words, less inclined to interpret evidence on the basis of predisposition. Of course, ultimately, everybody is subject to predisposition. Nobody who has been listening to my views on the subject should be surprised by this possibility. Of course, Half Sigma too.
Wired has a great article on medieval farm shapes and modern transportation networks. Or: Why Americans think that roads should come to them rather than settle where roads go to.
It is so weird to me that Android is winning the consumer market(share) and iPhone is winning the corporate. That’s completely backwards, and absolutely a failure on the part of Android handset makers.
In football, spread offenses typically stink at defense. Opinions differ as to why.
A while back I mentioned (I think?) that we are being evicted from our house roughly three months before we plan to leave. We made the mistake of letting them know ballpark how long we would be sticking around. They decided they wanted us out early so that they could get some remodelling done before re-renting the place. This put us in a pretty rough spot.
Fortunately, today we will be signing a lease that will solve a lot of our problems. The new place is going to be smaller, but it’ll also actually be new (they’re constructing it right now). The rent will be cheaper and the whole thing is going to cost us only a couple thousand dollars plus moving expenses that we wouldn’t have had to spend if we were able to stay in our current place until summer.
The couple thousand is because we have to sign a six-month lease even though we will only be staying for three or four months. That was expected. We’ll also be paying dual-rent as we move. With a baby around, and Clancy working again by the time we move, we don’t figure that moving will be easy. We could hire someone, but we don’t want to give notice until the new place is ready in case there are any unforeseen construction delays. Also, there are no moving companies in Dent County.
It’s really good to have that aspect of our lives out of the way. Except for all of the work, of course.
A dual core computer in a USB thumb drive? Awesome.
In all of the realignment over the past year, only one non-BCS FBS conference has not lost a (full member) team: the MAC. Only two full members have left the conference in the last fifty years (and one of them came back). Stuff like this is why.
This is old news, I guess, but I found Angus Jones’s comments about Two and a Half Men (which he sorta retracted) to be… well… accurate. But it’s entertaining filth. Anyhow, I don’t know that his apology will help him. The fact that they already replaced a key cast member might have, though. But if things don’t work out, Kirk Cameron needs costars.
Last week I spoke approvingly of federal university. The UN is launching a global university. Given that in a number of parts of the world a college degree is much more than a credential, I wish them luck.
Jon Last talks about what I’ve been talking about. The increasing shift away from the traditional family has political ramifications. Will Republicans be able to reach out to the atypical?
Singapore is the most emotionless country in the world. Another reason why what works over there cannot likely be imported here.
The Washington Post is planning a paywall. I think this is a mistake. They aren’t the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Their only competitive advantage, to my eyeballs, is that they are free. C’mon, WaPo, what use is it to have a newspaper running a bunch of scummy for-profit schools if you can’t use it to keep your newspaper afloat?
Musicians demanding more money from Internet radio like Pandora would be more understandable if Pandora was actually making good money. They aren’t.
Female teachers give male pupils lower marks. In the UK. I’d be interested to see what kind of results we’d get here.
Having been out of the comic book collecting universe, I hadn’t realized that digital comics were doing so well. I’d thought that the biggest threat to comics retailers was bookstores and Amazon.
Around election time, I pondered whether Romney’s loss would have any effect on the LDS Church:
[A] change of trajectory somewhere along the line does seem possible. The Romney loss could play a roll in it, but I think being on what will be the losing side of the gay marriage issue will be a bigger one. To be clear, I don’t think the LDS Church will ever formally or informally endorse same-sex marriage. Civil unions and such yes, but marriage never. But I think their experiences with Proposition 8 and the backlash they faced may have jarred them a little (it sure as heck would have jarred me). Not just that they were publicly reviled, but it was the conspicuousness with which they were targeted. It’s not that they don’t like attention - they clearly do - but they have always seemed at least a little wary of being seen as backwards. It’s actually a bit difficult to describe, but many southern evangelicals seem to revel in being the big, bad guy to their opponents. Mormons maintain their distinctness, to be sure, but perhaps because of a history of having been on the wrong side of public backlashes, they are reluctant to be too different.
The LDS Chuch does seem to be shifting its views on homosexuality just a bit:
Among the videos on the site is one featuring the Mormon apostle Dallin H. Oaks, titled “What Needs to Change.” Oaks says that “what needs to change is to help our own members and families understand how to deal with same-gender attraction.” While that sentence doesn’t quite parse grammatically, the message seems to be: Don’t throw your children out of the house because they’re gay. Do teach them, though, not to have gay sex. The “doctrine of the church, that sexual activity should only occur between a man and a woman who are married,” Oaks says, “has not changed and is not changing.”
Those who pay attention to verb tenses may notice that Oaks does not say that Mormon doctrine will not change. On one level, this is simply good Mormonism: The LDS Church believes in continual revelation through a living prophet, so no apostle can declare with certainty that something will never change. And the new website, which is hardly a celebration of gay pride, is also a savvy bit of public relations: Brad Kramer, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan who studies contemporary Mormonism (and who is Mormon himself), called the site “an example of the curious space where PR and doctrinal shift intersect and subtly cooperate.”
To be sure, this is a very subtle shift. But it’s not in isolation. In 2010, two years after having getting a lot of negative attention due to their role in Proposition 8, they came out in favor of a ban on anti-gay discrimination in Salt Lake County and came out strongly against anti-gay persecution in schools.
Like I said, I don’t think the church will ever support gay marriage. Nor will they ever be okay with homosexuality. But I think they are at least somewhat subject to peer pressure. And we’re seeing that now.
Addendum: In the comments, Abel points to a couple of items pre-dating the 2008 election demonstrating a more broad-minded view of homosexuality than the church’s reputation.
The other day at Safeway I happened to end up in line in front of the young lady I sold Crayola, my old Ford Escort, too. I was particularly happy to sell the car to exactly the kind of person she was: young and poor. I offered the car for a really low price and even knocked another $150 off after I met her and her boyfriend, the prototypical struggling young couple. I almost had an offer for the full asking price, but I ended up glad that didn’t work out because it was a gift for a grandson who was apparently less than impressed that his first car was going to be a compact. I wanted the car to go to someone that would appreciate it the same way I appreciated having any car that would run.
While we were waiting, I asked them whether they still had the car, and they did! I thought that I had seen it around town, but I hadn’t seen it in a while. Apparently, the old car successfully drove from the Mountain West, to the Great Plains, to the Texas, and back. I was pretty stunned since I had become reluctant to try to drive it to Redstone.
I will confess, however, that “wait, so you’re saying I could have held on to that car for two more years?!” crossed my mind. But a greater part of me was glad that I didn’t rip them off with a car that had less than a couple months left on it. Besides which, the car had become unreliable in extreme cold conditions. We haven’t really had that since I sold it to them, but piece of mind was also one of the things we purchased along with the new car and warranty plan. Also, with little Lain, the two-door compact would no longer have been useful to us anyway.
Meanwhile, my sister-in-law is asking me about smartphones and is interested in upgrading to one. That sort of stuff makes my day to begin with, but it worked out even better when it turned out that a phone I have that’s been gathering dust (literally - I’m looking at it now and it’s very dusty) fit her needs perfectly.
I always like it when things I can no longer use can find a home with someone who needs them.