It’s Friday

Alright, the kids are on a broad spectrum antibiotic to battle strep throat plus a mysterious virus. They are both at school. I have an actual list of things to do today, instead of just putting out fires as they come up. I’m working on an article on this Supreme Court case. I even made it to the gym this morning, where I did a couple of miles while watching HGTV. Win!

I have some random bits and pieces of good things to share this morning.

I really loved this quote in Megan McArdle’s article about divorce.

But more recent research suggests a very different truth about happiness. As Daniel Gilbert argues in the brilliant book “Stumbling on Happiness,” unless our circumstances are truly unbearable, our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness, like floodwater evening out across a plain. Whatever we are stuck with … whatever we commit to … we will find ways to make it work — and we will be just as happy with it as we would have been with any other outcome.

I’m fascinated by Ayelet Waldman’s LSD trips.

Two state legislatures are debated getting rid of tenure.  Well, most colleges have already gotten rid of tenure informally by hiring adjuncts in higher and higher numbers.

Do you believe that intelligence report on DT?

19 thoughts on “It’s Friday

  1. “..our brains will seek to find their natural level of happiness..” Around this house, the various Eeyores we know have often been described “His happy-stat is set on ‘low'”. This can sort of include a fixation on putatively greener grass on the other side of the fence. If you are married to somebody who is disposed to think this way, there may be not a Goddamn thing you can do to keep him/her from jumping the fence.


  2. Oh yah, and Donald Trump. Known germ freak – would he do a golden showers trick? Seems unlikely. Perfectly plausible he has done many vile things, but that one seems unlikely.


  3. I recommend the Peabody Museum podcast of a lecture by Daniel Gilbert, “Happiness: What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You.” Very thought provoking.


  4. OK, I have to nitpick and say that even broad spectrum antibiotics don’t battle mysterious viruses (I’m supposing that was a miswritten sentence).

    I agree that happiness is mostly created (given the basics of life — and that’s a big one. I think a lot of stress in life and families is caused by lacks, of money, resources, simple joy) and not found. The “whereever you go, there you are” comment has always struck me as important. On the other hand, I have seen people leave (marriages, jobs, cities) and have a significant positive impact on their life. So, it’s also important not to use the sentiment as an excuse for staying in ruts that are really not working.

    I think Waldman has bipolar depression and that much of what she writes that is controversial is a result of that illness (she’s written of suicide, other drug use, what I see as manic swings in relationships). I think she’s an example like the neuroscientist (James Fallon) who identifies himself as a functional psychopath. He’s recognized he has the brain structure, but his life allows him to behave within norms while having the psychopathic tendencies. Waldman, because of her family, wealth, and intellect, is mentally ill, but generally functional. I think she experiments with different pharmaceuticals on a regular basis. LSD is complicated to use therapeutically because it’s dosage and time course is unpredictable — but it mucks with brain chemistry, like any other depression medication.

    I don’t care about the Trump dossier, now that it has become public. The main concern about it is that it would be used to blackmail Trump. Now that it’s public, traditional blackmail isn’t relevant. I think the argument that he is pro-russia and anti-china as a function of the general xenphobia in his political campaign is a bigger worry.

    (And, I think it’s a sign of the writer you are and that I am not that my responses to your posts end up being longer than your posts, but don’t say any more.)


    1. I was going to mention the virus/antibiotic thingy too but also thought it was written in error. One of my hobby horses – the overprescribing of antibiotics. Another related one? Kids going to school/adults going to paid work sick.

      On the happiness definition – I can see how it can easily be conflated with the overvaluation of perceived independence. Make it on your own = make your own happiness —> ignoring systemic social problems + blame the victim. Like you’re alluding to bj (and correct me if I’m wrong), money doesn’t buy happiness but substandard housing and a lack of secure paid work certainly have a huge impact.

      In other words, it’s situational and there are systemic issues.

      Gretchen Rubin’s pursuit of happiness grates on me more than a little bit – lots of unacknowledged privilege and navel gazing.

      When am I happiest? When I have an impact. Sharing a meal with close friends and family. Reading a good book. Experiencing a good play or film or live jazz/classical music. Playing music with others. Baking bread. On the material side of things – a quality leather bag and good sheets and a good cup of drip coffee.

      For you east coasters, for all of the times I’ve visited NYC (+30 times now), I STILL get a thrill driving in from the airport and seeing the skyline. And walking the streets of Manhattan, going to museums, seeing plays – I’m still that 11 year growing up in a working class family on the prairies dreaming of NYC while listening to cast albums that I borrowed from the library.


      1. ” I STILL get a thrill driving in from the airport and seeing the skyline.”

        I feel the same way about sunsets over water and mountains. I also grew up in the flatlands, but in suburban styled plots with the occasional tree. Seeing the sky and horizon fill with colors and light still thrills me every single day.

        I don’t listen to Gretchen — but I do think she knows who she is. She’s talking about how to create happiness when you have everything. And, I have been her daughter’s podcast (Eliza starting at 16). It is indeed relevant only to a very small segment of society that has a lot, but it is interesting to me to hear from them. Would be interesting to hear how others react.


      2. “Kids going to school/adults going to paid work sick.”

        A kid missing a whole week of high school is HARD to catch up with.


      3. I lived in NYC (Brooklyn, really) for 5 years, and I lived in a suburb of NYC for 18 years. But NYC always gives me a thrill.


  5. They gave him the antibiotics for the virus because they thought it was leading to an infection in Ian’s lungs. He was still running a fever after three days of the generic antibiotic.


  6. “They gave him the antibiotics for the virus because they thought it was leading to an infection in Ian’s lungs.”



    1. Yeah, that’s the tricky thing with respiratory stuff. Asthma was a great education into the lungs. E would develop pneumonia every couple of years, though he seems to have grown out of it now.


  7. I’m pretty sure anyone doing business in Russia would be aware of the sleazossitude of the new KGB. So I think the prostitution part is probably bs. I haven’t read the rest of it but wouldn’t be surprised if there were less salacious financial improprieties buried in there somewhere.

    On the happiness question: People can get used to marriage, but they can also get used to being single. I have four friends who separated or divorced this year. (The mid-40s must be that time – divorce is rare among my social circle.) Causes are 1) husband had mental illness he refused to deal with (for 5-10 years, basically never left the house); 2) husband used drugs with kids in the house and drove intoxicated despite repeated pleas not to do so over the course of several years; 3) husband cheated; and 4) husband was flat-out jerk for years and years. I do sympathize with the kids in cases 2-4, but I’m not sure if they are worse off or not.


    1. “would be aware of the sleazossitude of the new KGB. So I think the prostitution part is probably bs.”

      Because he has otherwise shown such high levels of self-control and respect for women?


      1. No, because he’d have known about the possibility of blackmail. It could have cost him money or business.

        I’ve seen several posts saying that the really sad thing is that no one would ever defend him by saying it was too sleazy for him to have done.


      2. “No, because he’d have known about the possibility of blackmail. It could have cost him money or business.”

        You seem to be watching a version of Trump with a lot more self-discipline than the one on my TV.


  8. Divorce research is so poorly done.

    My biggest beef: the institution of marriage has changed so drastically over the past 50 years that it makes no sense to compare the outcomes of children from divorced versus intact families and leave out children whose parents were never married considering that is huge group of kids whose outcomes are likely worst of all, by far.

    Also, Judith Wallerstein with her “landmark” study of a mere 60 families in privileged Marin County, California, can go redie in a fire.


Comments are closed.