How Weird Will 2017 Be?

We’re off to weird start to the new year. Mariah Carey has a lipsync disaster. Trump is a Russian hacking denier. The current president and the president elect are simultaneously running the country and in rather opposite directions. Josh Marshall seems to have tweeted a link to PornHub.

Half of my friends are heading down to DC in a couple of weeks to protest. I have a couch to sleep on, if I go. My friend Sue’s sofa about the only place in town left in town. But I probably won’t go. I want to wait until DT does something particularly vile before I protest. It seems pointless to protest potential vileness, when there will be probably a real vile statement or proposal a week or two later.

I’ve been away from the computer for the past week, so I’m catching up. Some things that I’ve read today:

If you think your kid is going to get a scholarship for sports, think again.  The Myth of the Sports Scholarship.

From Brookings — “For higher education, a major factor driving up costs has been a growth in the number of highly-paid non-teaching professionals. In 1988, for every 100 full-time equivalent students, there were on average 23 college employees. By 2012, that number had increased to 31 employees, with a shift toward the highest paying non-teaching occupations. Managers and professionals now outnumber faculty, who comprise just a third of the higher education workforce.”

How do you become a superager? Learn a second language and use lots of sunscreen.

18 thoughts on “How Weird Will 2017 Be?

  1. I agree that I personally wouldn’t be up to protesting to express general distaste, and would want to save my energy for something more specific. My acts of protest has been to make sure that my donations were in order through the end of the year, to the political organizations that will be fighting for the things I believe in, providing services to those who might lose them, and to news media, in the hopes that real journalism will find a way to survive the internet age.

    I’ve read so many stories about middle class (and I’m being lazy here, I think many of those parents are more than “middle) parents and “myth” of sports scholarships to find the articles disingenuous. I read that one, and I thought it was disingenuous. Are there really self-funding parents who are deluded by the idea that their kids will earn scholarships worth the extensive investment in travel sports? The parents I know fund their kids in sports so that they will enhance their kids’ chances of getting into elite colleges and, because they value the activity itself. One of my elder kiddo’s classmates just committed to a D1 school over Thanksgiving (i.e.”verbal commit”, for baseball, which is not one of the full scholarship sports). He is supremely talented, but his parents definitely had no belief that they would be earning back their investment in his sport (unless he becomes a MLB player, which is not impossible).

    I do think there are poor kids who get sucked into the sports scholarship myth, when only a very few of them are going to get to college that way, while many more might up their chances a lot by just becoming excellent students.


  2. My twin niece and nephew, age 10 (!), are both in travel sports (baseball and softball). They go to some sort of weekly baseball lessons thing, too. My sister and BIL aren’t crazy parents. We’ve talked about this a lot in our summer get-togethers. My BIL always swore he would never get them into this travel team stuff. I don’t think they’re looking at scholarships. I think, though, that their kids simply love to play, and these teams are really the only way to do it. The kids take the sports seriously and want to be around others who will challenge them. This fall I drove my daughter to visit a friend at UMass, and it ended up that my niece was at a tournament between Springfield and Hartford, so I decided to take a night and visit with them and see my niece play in the tournament. They really emphasize skill building. I was kind of impressed.

    But I am so happy neither of my kids has been into any type of sports.

    At this point, we (meaning two of my sisters and I) are going to the protest in DC. However, one sister is notorious for not following through, plus I think she has mobility issues because of her cancer/treatment and probably isn’t up to it. I have 2 hotel rooms booked in MD, and I have a feeling some last-minute marcher is going to be very surprised to find a room available. And I will not be sorry at all. We might end up going to NYC in that case. I should probably look into renting a wheelchair or scooter for my sister.

    I’ve been to marches in DC before, and it’s really an experience, which is why I will support my sisters and nieces in going, plus S has never been to a real march (we went to the Rally for Sanity, but I don’t think that counts).


    1. Update: I was wrong! It was my other sister, the nurse, who nixed DC! She has to take off MLK Day because of the kids being off from school, so she can’t also ask for the Friday before. Looks like we’re marching in NYC. I floated the scooter idea to my sister and she loved it.


  3. I think that the DC protest is important in that it’s a big statement for those going and those watching. And it’ll drive Ivanka’s dad crazy! However, it doesn’t replace actions like bj is doing and I’ve referred to before – subscribing to newspapers and magazines that are providing quality journalism (Washington Post, Teen Vogue, NYTimes, Chicago Tribune, etc). The Washington Post has hired scores of new reporters with the new influx of subscriptions.

    Protest AND take action in the coming days/months wherever you live.

    Focus your donations to the organizations that support those who will be hurt the most by the funding cuts and healthcare cuts. And volunteering in your community – many opportunities available.

    Finally, Van Jones’ Dream Corps ( and Wall of Us ( are just a few of many who have ideas big and small on how to take daily action. And has some excellent posts too on what to do next.

    It’ll be easy to slip into complacency this next year as we all get caught up in our daily lives and commitments. The crazy tweets and bluster and lies and blather are overwhelming and also tiring. I can see how it can become just background noise. Most of us here enjoy the privilege of not feeling the direct impact of many of the coming policy changes. However I do believe that we have a responsibility take a stand and speak up.


    1. I’m also recommend a guide put together by congressional staffers on how to influence your representatives and senators. They call it “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.” Mostly what you would expect, but I’ve already signed up for my Repub rep’s email letter and spent some time on his web site, researching his interests and concerns. I don’t like to call people for any reason, really, but am gearing up to call the office on a regular basis.

      The Democrats thought they had a good ground game before the election, but it seems like now’s the time for the real ground game. Donations are great, but if that stat I’ve seen floating around about how Trump’s billionaire appointees have as much money as 43 million Americans is correct, money is not going to be very influential. More people have to vote, and more people have to push their reps on a whole variety of issues. And protests may be a part of this (though I also do not like participating in protests – some people find them energizing, though). I’m not optimistic, but it’s at least a germ of a plan.


      1. One of the things that surprised me in the election was the Democrats being outplayed on getting out the vote. They usually have a better grassroots organization.

        And yes to making the calls and writing letters to senators and congress-people.

        Finally, being explicit about what we are doing – making the calls, volunteering, donating, etc. Letting those know in our circles of influence what can be done and how.


      2. “One of the things that surprised me in the election was the Democrats being outplayed on getting out the vote.”

        Voter suppression made a big difference in Wisconsin. Not so sure about MI and PA. Made a difference in NC, too, but in contrast to WI it’s more debatable about whether that tipped the scales. If citizens who would vote your way aren’t allowed to vote, it doesn’t matter how good your ground game is.


  4. Some people think that as many as 1/3 of the freshman spots at somewhat prestigious schools like Williams and Amherst go to students who will play the sport in college. Given how selective these schools are, parents may reasonably assume that the travel-sport trajectory gives them just as good, if not better, odds as the purely academic one. Depends on the applicant. I do not think that these parents are expecting any money with the acceptance letter. And there is definitely a type of sport for which this option is viable: swimming; lacrosse; soccer; golf; track and field. The Chronicle article is subscription only, so I have not read it, but I suppose that there is also a distinction between Elite and ELITE athlete. I doubt that Katie Ledecky had problems with funding at Stanford. This swimmer seems to be on a somewhat lower tier.


    1. My other BIL says that swimming is apparently an in to getting into colleges where he teaches (upperclass Rockland County).


  5. My experience is coincident with several other commenters: among UMC (really UUMC) parents in NYC, the thought is not that your kid will get a scholarship, but that he or she will get a significant leg up in the admissions process. Note that D-III schools like Amherst do not give athletic scholarships–and they certainly don’t give need-based scholarships to the children of managing directors. It’s all about admissions.

    Another superaging suggestion: take up a musical instrument. I decided in December to play piano for an hour a week, which obviously isn’t enough to become good, but I can feel the synapses ripping every time. It’s almost physically painful. We’ll see if it lasts.


    1. Yes to playing a musical instrument! I don’t have the time to put into jazz piano playing to get it back to a level where I can jam with others (well, it’s really my own ego – I want to play how I played). As a substitute I took up bluegrass guitar about a year ago. The similarities with jazz are that there is improvisation and it’s very social – you play with others. Like jazz it has it’s own conventions but the chord progressions are much much easier. Lower barrier to entry.

      I could go on about making music together! So much joy and pleasure playing an instrument. When I studied piano & clarinet in university I loved chamber music. No matter the type of music, I love playing in small groups.

      Keep playing! And maybe find a violinist or someone else to play duets.


      1. Since you mention it, my niece and I did a piano/violin duet of “Silent Night” for the family Christmas gathering. That was the original impetus for resumed piano playing.


    2. I’m not the music person in the family, but I have to put in a plug for the ukulele community. In a city of any size, there will be a regular get-together of ukulele players, plus regular workshops:

      C went to one this past year and learned to play and sing Elton John’s Rocket Man with another 100+ or so people. It was fun!

      There are also ukulele cruises:

      Look at all those older people and how HAPPY they look:

      C and I have a compact that approximately 400 practices from now, I’ll book her onto a ukulele cruise–hopefully a 7-day one to Alaska.


  6. Agreed on what to do. Not going to the protest – working locally to develop the farm league. Working with groups to recruit people to start running – bottom up. I’ll also echo the comments about sports. My guys fence – there’s no scholarship money there, but we constantly joke that it’s unique enough to get them a leg up in admissions. On the other hand, I’ve met quite a few parents who think their kids are going to make it. I suspect this correlat a pretty highly with education -at least from my limited N observation. The parents who are in the know about this tend to be very highly educated (and affluent) – and as others have noted, they see this as a leg up in admissions, not a road to a scholarship.


  7. So there was a survey that wound up ranking North Carolina very poorly as a democracy, it got a certain amount of press. Dan Nexon relates that the surveying was not rigorous enough for him, and that one of the researchers and his family have been receiving death threats as a result. Welcome to fascism.


  8. The Brookings thing is naive. First, what he reports does not fit the facts as I have seen them presented. The increase in non-teaching staff per student is much smaller. Second — in fact the increase has not been enough! the past 28 years has seen a dramatic rise in the numbers of low-income, first gen, students, whose parents cannot do the advising that students need in order to navigate the demands of college. Professors are not willing to do that advising. So, we need someone to do it. Also worth looking into the decline in the amount that professors teach. I have done some casual digging (all at highly selective institutions) and it is quite startling. Declines of as much as 50% in some departments, and declines across the board over the past 50 years. I do not think faculty salaries at those institutions have declined at the same rate.


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