And More Gossip From the Mechanic

Last night, Jonah drove home from an evening of Fortnite at Jimmy’s house and announced that there was a bad smell coming from the car. Bad smells aren’t enough to move us to deal with car problems. But when black smoke started coming out from under the hood this morning, we agreed that prompt action was needed.

I wasn’t in the mood for prompt car action, because I had a full day of work planned out. Instead, I had to drive 30 minutes to the mechanic and pick up a spare car from my parents. Any trip to my parents now requires an additional 30 minutes on simplistic tech problems and lunch and tea. On the way back, I had to pick up groceries.

The day is shot. Ugh. Might as well blog.

When I dropped off the car, I had to do some mandatory chit-chat with Jimmy the mechanic. Jimmy fixes my extended family’s fleet of Toyotas and Subarus. He’s honest and hardworking and worth the 30 minute drive.

Jimmy was in a bad mood this morning, too. His best worker, Dave, quit, after working with him for eight years. Dave went to work for a dealership where he will get paid more money and get health insurance and benefits. As a small business owner, Jimmy can’t offer health insurance. His own health insurance is 20K per year.

Jimmy needs to find a replacement and is stuck. He had one guy for two weeks, but he showed up late every day and he only lived a block away. He fired him. He said that all the guys coming out of tech school are terrible. They don’t want to work hard or get dirty. I guess tech schools aren’t attracting the highest quality workers. I also guess that not too many people are willing to work at a job without health insurance.

Anyway, this gossip is interesting mostly because it is almost the exact same story that I heard from my contractor two weeks ago.

I’m interested in these stories not just because I think it’s a sign that there is great unraveling of the economy. I’m paying attention, because it’s personal. I can’t imagine that Ian is going to be able to attend a traditional four-year college. His reading skills aren’t on grade level, and he certainly could never manage the social skills of dorm room.

He does, however, have mad computer and engineering skills, so I’m started to dip my big toe into information about technical schools and community colleges. What’s the best way to get him in a cubicle with a computer? There are lots of stories about how vocational schools are the wave of the future, but I suspect it’s more hype than reality.

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SL 725

NBC is very nervous about Ronan Farrow is going to say about them. Good!

Enough with the open floor plans already! But foldable houses are totally cool.

Going to college is a gamble and people should be informed about the risks — no degree, but tons of debt. From the New York Times:

People who have dropped out of college — about 40 percent of all who attend — earn only a bit more than do people with only a high school education: $38,376 a year versus $35,256. For many, that advantage is barely enough to cover their student loan debt.

Drezner writes about Tom Wolfe in the Washington Post, with a nice shout out to me.

Great article in National Geographic about what happens to the plastic we throw out.

Tom Wolfe on Graduate School

Very sorry about Tom Wolfe’s passing. I loved Bonfire of the Vanities.

Here’s what Wolfe said about going to grad school.

I had just spent five years in graduate school, a statement that may mean nothing to people who never served such a stretch; it is the explanation, nonetheless. I’m not sure I can give you the remotest idea of what graduate school is like. Nobody ever has. Millions of Americans now go to graduate schools, but just say the phrase—”graduate school”—and what picture leaps into the brain? No picture, not even a blur. Half the people I knew in graduate school were going to write a novel about it. I thought about it myself. No one ever wrote such a book, as far as I know. Everyone used to sniff the air. How morbid! How poisonous! Nothing else like it in the world! But the subject always defeated them. It defied literary exploitation. Such a novel would be a study of frustration, but a form of frustration so exquisite, so ineffable, nobody could describe it. Try to imagine the worst part of the worst Antonioni movie you ever saw, or reading Mr. Sammler’s Planet at one sitting, or just reading it, or being locked inside a Seaboard Railroad roomette, sixteen miles from Gainesville, Florida, heading north on the Miami-to-New York run, with no water and the radiator turning red in an amok psychotic over boil, and George McGovern sitting beside you telling you his philosophy of government. That will give you the general atmosphere.

Weed and Teenagers

I’m going to express my unpopular opinion. I’m not excited about the legalization of pot, which is likely going to happen soon in New York and New Jersey.

Yes, I know that the enforcement of these laws is especially tough on minority communities. I know that regulations reduce the amount of bad drugs. I know that it brings in a lot of revenue for cash-strapped state legislatures. But it just sucks for the parents of teenagers.

I am extremely grateful that Jonah survived high school, got into a great college, and has a super demanding major that makes him study on Saturday nights. Because I’ve seen how things can go south.

Yeah, I’m in a UMC suburb, but those kids get in trouble, too. Big time. And it’s pot that fueling the trouble, not the Bud Lights that they get from a big brother. Since the kids are all under 18, they aren’t getting jail time, but they are still going on probation, going before judges, getting suspended, selling, and upgrading to more serious drugs. It’s not making the papers, but it’s happening.

The parents sit in the bleachers at football games and whisper about these matters. They share tips for finding the stashes under the beds and spy on the kids on social media. They trade the business cards of lawyers. They warn each other about the instigators who seem to be at the center of the action.

Teenagers are dumb, and their brains are too sensitive to chemicals. Most parents have given up on trying to stop the Juuls, but aren’t ready to deal with the new problem of legal weed. I’m so, so, so happy that Jonah is sweating it out in his bio classes and that Ian is immune to teenage vices, because our suburban town is going to go up in smoke very soon.

More on Social Skills

Last night, on the way back from a Mother’s Day celebration at my brother’s house, we had to have a serious talk with Ian about the “Five Deadly Words” — ugly, stupid/dumb, old, smelly, and fat. He can’t address people (or their dogs) with those words. He wanted to know if they were curse words. We told him that these words were as hurtful as curses, and he should never use them.

Social rules have to be concretely explained to Ian. One we establish a rule, then he’s good to go, but he needs them to survive social situations. He doesn’t naturally know that you can’t say “Good-bye Old Woman” to someone when he doesn’t know her name. We explained to him that people love their dogs as much as their children, so those words apply to people’s pets as well.

Over the years, we’ve had to set this rule plus dozens more to help Ian navigate the outside world. I’m writing up these rules this week.

Have you had to directly instruct your children or your family members about social or conversational skills? Tell me about it.

 

Rule Breaking and Reactions

A woman from my spin class leaves the building by a door that has a huge sign, “THIS IS A FIRE EXIT. USE FRONT DOOR.” My friend and I watch her, but we walk to the front of the gym and go out the front door. We wonder if we’re following rules because our kids have autism and are hard-wired to follow all rules. Maybe there is something wrong with us, too.

A neighbor back in our old town has too many people crashing in his house, so he lets the freeloaders park on his front lawn. The cops ticket cars left on the street overnight, and they don’t want that. So, they plop their Nissan on the grass in front of the house. Which is also illegal, but not a traffic matter, so there’s no cops to monitor that law at night.

We go for a walk at the park at the nearby mountain. There are other places to hike, but this is the closest. This location is also popular with dog walkers. There are huge signs at the front of the trail that say “ALL DOGS MUST BE ON LEASHES.” Nine of ten people obey that law, but there’s always one guy. Once, a guy with a huge dog roaming free knocked Ian down and licked his face. Ian, at the time, was terrified of dogs and screamed. I told the guy, “leash your dog.” He said, “leash your kid.”

Back in the early 90s when I first lived in my old neighborhood in Manhattan, traffic laws were strictly advisory. Drivers would go down sidewalks, triple park, roll through red lights, blast music out of the trunk at 2am. It was your job as a pedestrian to watch out for them and jump out of the way if necessary.

Kids monopolize a solemn college graduation by dancing, a student sleeps in a common area of the dorm, a family grills dinner by a lake in an area where they aren’t supposed to grill.

The last three incidents were in the news this week, because the reactions to the rule breaking were extreme and caught up in race.

Let’s take the reactions out of the equation for a minute and just talk about rules and laws. Every one of these incidents involves breaking a meaningful law, rule, or policy. Except for sleeping in the common room, because that is just the god given right of every graduate students. But leashing dogs, grilling in the right area, getting through a long and boring graduation in an orderly way are good things.

It’s super important to make sure that our laws and rules are sensible and just. It’s also super important to make sure that people who break the laws are punished equitably and reasonably. But I just want to make sure that we don’t toss out all rules all together.

The Dark Web?

I’m working on a book proposal right now. I do this from time to time, but I’ve never gotten very far. I think book proposals are like relationships. They fizzle when things aren’t quite right. I’m in the honeymoon stage of this book proposal relationship, and things are flowing. My goal is to finish it by Friday of next week, and then send it out to people.

Since this book would seem to fall into the dreaded “self-help” section of the book store, I went to Barnes and Noble yesterday to check out other books in that category. It’s a rather huge section that includes everything from celebrity guides to losing weight to guides on how to be successful without any effort.

Lumped in with the books in the self-help section was Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. I don’t know much about Peterson, other than he is hated by a lot of people that I follow on Twitter. I guess he’s a conservative, but I don’t know much more than that. Because his book was 40 percent off and seemed be less badly written than other books on that table, I bought it. I’ll skim it today.

Bari Weiss wrote an article that also blew up some steam on Twitter yesterday, called “Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web.

Along with Peterson, other thinkers represent the new Intellectual Dark Web or the IDW, Weiss explains.

Most simply, it is a collection of iconoclastic thinkers, academic renegades and media personalities who are having a rolling conversation — on podcasts, YouTube and Twitter, and in sold-out auditoriums — that sound unlike anything else happening, at least publicly, in the culture right now. Feeling largely locked out of legacy outlets, they are rapidly building their own mass media channels.

These thinkers are making serious cash by saying controversial things, I guess. Weiss champions them as heroes who are fighting the good fight against political correctness.

The other big news yesterday was that Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, came out with a new blockbuster video, “This is America.” I watched it. I can only watch it once, despite the great dancing. Commentary here and here and here.

Today’s ideas are angry, divisive, lucrative, polarizing, violent. In some ways, I’m intrigued, because it’s all new and I like new things. But it’s also a little frightening, I suppose.

UPDATE: Read Henry Farrell on the IDW. Also interesting.