Dinner Time Conversations

Today, we ate at the kitchen counter, because Wednesday is Steve’s gym day, so he doesn’t get home until about 8:00. With laptops next to dinner plate, we did a little multi-tasking — we call it “homework-dinner-combo.” Ian had to finish a personal essay about his personal hero (Steve), and Jonah had to finalize his schedule for next year. And we were chatting the whole time.

Jonah showed us a video about a guy who lived in the Paris airport for 18 years.

After telling us that his roommate is going to get a tattoo of Mac Mills, he announced that he wanted to get a tattoo of the Dortmund soccer team. I told him about the things that I thought I was cool at 19 and that I would be unhappy to have permanently affixed to my 53-year old body. Annie Lennox, for example. I did like REM back then, but I’m still happy that nothing is highlighting my saggy self.

And he told me that Grey Poupon is a very popular word in rap music, because it’s a symbol of wealth and because it rhymes with a lot of stuff. And then proceeded to freestyle a rap using the words futon and crouton.

I’m going to be really sad when he goes back to school.

Photo: Ian made an “I” out of hot sauce on his black bean soup.

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Education links. Another small liberal arts college — Hampshire College — might close. Georgia State is using Moneyball style number crunching to keep kids in college.

Rural areas are in such desperate straights that there aren’t enough volunteers to drive ambulances.

A really nice, long form article in Wired about a couple who struggled to fight against a rare disease.

Girls outperform boys in school. Research shows that it’s because boys feel pressure to be jocks and tough. Doing well in school is seen as a girl-thing. Asian American boys feel this pressure, too, but respond to it later than other boys. There’s a whole lot more in this Upshot article.

I made this black bean soup last night, with some minor tweaks.

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I watched the first episode of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up show on Netflix last night. After Hoarders, I think I’m spoiled for organization shows. Unless you are living amongst garbage bags of your own poop, then you’re a minor league sloppy person. So much about Kondo’s show is about how we can deal with having too much crap and coping with the guilt about throwing stuff out. What weird period of history we live in.

KJ Dell’Antonia writes a post about why she doesn’t answer her e-mail and spawns a whole bunch of nasty comments. Honestly, I couldn’t get past her second paragraph. It didn’t help that I once pitched her a story topic back when she was an editor at the New York Times and she never responded. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything. (The comments are good.)

More on the cuts to liberal arts departments at Wisconsin colleges.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Divorced

In the 80s, there was a show called “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Hosted by the toad-like Robin Leach, viewers got an inside look at movie stars and athletes. The rich people showed off their mansions and fancy cars, portraying lives filled with ease and buttery leather seat covers. He often ended the show dancing a yacht with a glass of bubbly and wishing viewers “champagne wishes and caviar dreams.”

Today, we don’t need televisions shows to get a glimpse at extreme wealth. The rich post pictures of themselves on private jets and in Paris apartments on Instagram. And we have divorce proceedings to give us exact figures about how much money it takes to maintain those their frizz-free hair and to mind their children.

We’ll soon have the download on the Bezos who are getting divorced. And there are similarly rich couples, like Mugrabi’s, who aren’t necessarily household names, but are making headlines for their divorce proceedings.

$800 bottles of wine, multiple homes filled with Warhols and Koons’s, vacations to St. Bart’s was just an average day in the Mugrabi’s home.

Ms. Mugrabi’s expensive tastes have emerged as a central issue in the divorce. She scoffed at tabloid reports that she is scraping by on $25,000 a month in support payments. The actual amount, she said, is $200,000 a month, though that is less than the $3 million a year that she was accustomed to spending, on things like flowers ($400 a week) and household staff ($450,000 a year).

She went to the salon daily to have her hair perfectly molded and upgraded her wardrobe weekly with the latest haute couture.

The tricky part about this divorce is that much of the assets are on canvases and crafted with oil paints, so it’s hard to put a dollar amount on their actual wealth. Also, there is a question of how much she contributed to the wealth of their art business. And how much does a person, even a super rich person, need for basic maintenance.  All this is being hammered away in the courts right now.

Reading articles like this one in the New York Times, does not fill me with envy. The Mugrabi’s don’t seem to have the easy, happy lifestyle that Leach portrayed in the 1980s. I can’t imagine a worse hell than having to go to the hair salon every day to have my curly hair yanked straight. Managing a staff to keep multiple homes spotless and to mind entitled, neglected children sounds stressful. Surrounded by beautiful paintings that are simply assets, rather than objects of wonder, is shallow. And there’s apparently a danger of finding your husband passed out on top of a naked woman, after a blow-out party in one of your mansions. I have no interest in that world.

We currently have a president who was the king of the Stacy Leach world in the 1980s. Nobody wants a part of his gold covered world. His model wife looks unhappy and mean. Instead, people are rallying around a skinny girl representing a district in the Bronx, who knows how to use a pressure cooker and shops at TJ Maxx.

There’s two kinds of populism. There’s the kind that elected the rich guy, and there’s the kind that elected the poor girl. It will be interesting to see which one wins out.

Dreary January

January always sucks here in the Northeast. It’s grey and cold. We’ve all had the same virus for the past three weeks, trading germs back and forth. I need to give the entire house a Clorox bath to get rid of these lingering evil bugs. Faded Christmas trees lay sad and lonely waiting for pick up by the garbage truck.

A story that I did in December was just published. I posted it here. Happy to talk about it in the comment section. I’m working on something totally different right now. It’s an upbeat story about a school in the South Bronx for emotionally disturbed children. (Yes, it’s a happy story.) I’m also editing a document right now for a long term project. So, there’s a lot of work to do.

I was at that South Bronx school earlier this week and had a great time, except for the horrible drive through the Bronx. With streets full of pot holes, sudden turns, unmarked roads, and drivers who don’t obey normal traffic rules, I was having anxiety attacks as I navigated my way there. But I did it. Yay me.

Jonah’s home still, which is awesome. Sniffling like the rest of us, he’s been looking at the career development website for school and trying to figure out what he’s going to do after graduation. What a bucket of stress!

Other kids in town are using their winter break to do informational interviews with alumna from their schools at various companies around New York City. I’m just hearing about this from other parents. Neither Jonah nor myself got the memo that this is what kids do during winter break now, until it was too late. So, he’s surfing websites about careers, rather than sitting in an office with a suit. Sigh. Parent fail.

There is a RIDICULOUS level on stress on kids about jobs. Here’s an article in Vox describing it. And this stress isn’t totally crazy. Millennials are burning out in their jobs. College graduates aren’t finding work.

I’m moving my family to a bunker in Vermont where we’ll make artisanal goat cheese.

When College Isn’t Enough

college-campus-Harvard.jpgWith a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers University, New Jersey’s flagship public college, 22-year-old Rachel Van Dyks expected to have a good job by now. A professional job with a proper salary and benefits would enable her to move out of her grandfather’s house, where she lives with her parents and her brother. Instead, the 2017 graduate works 46 hours per week at two jobs — scooping maple walnut ice cream at the local ice cream parlor and taking orders at a high-end steakhouse — while paying for an associate’s degree in cardiovascular sonography at a for-profit technical school.

Van Dyks is not alone, according to Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. A majority of college graduates require additional education in order to qualify for a good-paying job, Carnevale said — though many might not find that out until after commencement exercises are over. While colleges are expanding their career development offices and providing students with opportunities for internships, few students take advantage of those resources. For those young graduates, the realities of the job market come as a surprise.

More here.