Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The irreparable trauma of daycare?

These are all sad stories, but one thing I'm struck by in the family separation coverage is how strange this ubiquitous claim is:
“There is no greater threat to a child’s emotional well-being than being separated from a primary caregiver. Even if it was for a short period, for a child, that’s an eternity,” said Johanna Bick, a psychology professor at the University of Houston who studies adverse experiences in childhood.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

"Don't trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer"

The South is in most respects pretty much like the North, especially in college towns like this one, but every once in a while, you encounter something like this:
Confederate Monument Protest Permit 

This is the lawyer representing our local white nationalist troll. What is he wearing? I think his outfit can be described as, pretty much, The South. (This ensemble could also be seen occasionally on another Virginian, Tom Wolfe.) So I looked him up, and found this Google Maps image of his office:

Is it real? Is he also a troll? I don't know, but it's pretty amazing if real. A true backwoods Southern lawyer.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

On moving

Was going to list some leftover furniture on the area Craigslist free stuff page when I opened it to find this had gotten there first:

I guess you can take these along with my media center.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Go west (to I-81), young man

Does anyone remember when Mike Huckabee was running for president in 2008 and his major transportation policy proposal was to add extra lanes to I-95? At the time, I was living free and easy (that is, employed, unmarried, childfree) in DC and taking frequent trips to visit friends in New York (remember when our friends still lived in New York? also, remember when we used to take the Chinatown bus to see them?) and see the sights of the fabled East Coast to which I had very recently relocated and where everyone is from and all significant American life was said to take place. I remember thinking about his proposal that this is truly a great idea. I-95 is the Great American Thoroughfare. Since then though, everyone turned against the people along I-95, including especially the people who live along I-95 themselves, the greatest anti-elitists of all, and it has become the Hated Elite Thoroughfare.

There is another expressway though that roughly tracks I-95 along the East Coast, but runs through its "back country," where authentic people live, and that is I-81. It is along this interstate that you can find authentic cities that, if you have ever heard of them, it was likely only as the butt of a joke, like Martinsburg, Hagerstown, Scranton. In deference to our new populist overlords therefore, we hewed closer to the I-81 on our recent trip to New Haven (boo hiss) and back. Actually, so populist were we that we took state roads almost all the way up (great idea if you want to drive for nine hours), and the I-81 only back down. And, since we also had a toddler with us, we stopped...a lot. In many small towns: Berryville, VA, Green Springs, PA, Wanaque, NJ, Middletown, NY, Lewisburg, PA. We also stayed in Lancaster, PA for a day and visited Emily Hale in Williamsport, PA, where we saw the used food store (two of them, actually; the used-food business must be doing well) and everything was named after Little League and there were some extremely impressive Victorian mansions.

The great irony we discovered was that, for all the apparent resentment against the college-educated among the voters in the I-81 corridor, building and sustaining a college, even a small one, from the nineteenth century was the most reliable ticket to present-day survival for a small town or city beyond New York's or Washington's exurban orbit. For example, look at this nice postcard of pre-war Middletown. It looked almost exactly like that last Saturday afternoon, except nearly every one of those storefronts was empty and instead of dozens of people strolling about, there were more like two. The whole western side of Virginia appears to sag and sit empty, with strip malls full of discount tobacco stores and places that fix cell phones. By contrast, Lewisburg, home of Bucknell University, was in fine shape. Gettysburg's prosperity is apparently sufficient to support a proto-suburban ring. I realize that colleges are not the only economic basis for small towns, and that these places do still serve as supply centers for agricultural hinterlands and, judging by what we saw, trucking depots, in addition to whatever local specialties they might have, but it was truly uncanny how much work colleges were doing for otherwise-isolated local economies.

Utopia, VA is an obvious and extreme example of this, since we have both a huge university and a huge university hospital that together employ something like 120 percent of the city's residents, and make possible 20 fancy coffee shops. Another thing this road trip has demonstrated to me is Utopia is really in the middle of nowhere when you consider it from the perspective of the geography of the eastern US (is this why no one ever visits us here?), but it never feels like it when you're in it. From the inside, it feels comfortably large and full of things to do. But without the university, it's clear that Utopia would be, at best, like its much saggier neighbor, Waynesboro, VA - a place that itself has benefited economically a great deal from even somewhat distant proximity to Utopia's university.

It would surely be preferable to have a more diversified economy, but it's very hard for a small place to do that simply by virtue of its size, and the main alternative to a higher ed-based economy seems to be no economy at all. So what do the populists have to say about this difficulty?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


- Banning plastic straws has suddenly gone from a thing no one was thinking about to a thing everyone is doing. I didn't have any opinions about it one way or the other until this afternoon, when a local coffee shop handed me a paper straw with my iced tea, and it disintegrated into the tea within the hour.

- Mr. Self-Important to me today: "I have made us a to-do list with four separate but interrelated parts based on a to-do list model developed by President Eisenhower."

- The cat went on the lam and was re-captured yet again, to his immense dismay. Does anyone know how to turn an aging indoor cat into an outdoor cat? Is this even possible? This pathetic creature really wants to get out.

- The academics in these Twitter threads, my goodness. A living illustration of the kind of epistemic bubbles that result in calls for actual affirmative action for conservatives in academia. Why are conservative graduates of elite law schools more likely to get high-level political jobs than liberal ones? What nefarious conspiracy could we create to explain the basic supply-and-demand facts of American partisan politics? And even if we could somehow hit upon the reason for this, it's still a terrible injustice because the world of politics is supposed to proportionally mirror the politics of my particular school. Otherwise there will not be enough extremely prestigious jobs for all my classmates and me, and some of us will be forced to make the terrible choice between between lying about our opinions or - worse than death! - settling for the private sector and making millions of dollars instead.