Deep Thoughts (About Getting Jacked)

When you go to the gym and lift weights, you use resistance training to stress out and damage your muscles and then, eventually, your body recognizes the inflammation and soreness and sends satellite cells to the damaged area and these special cells instruct the proteins to add myofibrils (muscle cells) to the affected area . . . and while you're stressing and straining your muscles to initiate this process, you're wandering around a dirty gym, touching equipment covered in other people's sweat, equipment that has thriving bacteria colonies on every surface, meanwhile people are coughing and panting and expectorating, and you're breathing it all in, particles of floating mucous and worse . . . so not only are your muscles getting a work-out while you are at the gym, but your immune system is doing reps as well: I'm not sure if this is a groundbreaking thought (and I'm not going to check) but perhaps people who go to the gym are not only physically stronger but they also might have tougher immune systems . . . some scientist should get on this and do a study.

Stuff You Probably Don't Need to Know

If you've never heard of Zardulu, Pizza Rat, Selfie Rat, and That Dragon, Cancer, then you're the same as me a week ago, and if you'd like to be enlightened, then listen to these two episodes of Reply All:

#50 The Cathedral

#56 Zardulu.

Meta-weather Report

Due to the inclement weather, today's sentence is canceled (or is it?)

Metrics and Politics

I love the metric system and if that makes me a French socialist so be it . . . and if you find it fascinating that in America, the adoption of a logical, global measurement system is equivalent to treasonous thought, then you'll love the new 99% Invisible episode "Half Measures," which recounts the political machinations and manipulation that have surrounded this seemingly innocuous base 10 miracle . . . you'll hear of a poor science teacher who was demonized by a right wing radio host and her community because she wanted to "push her metric agenda" on children (she wanted the local airport to fix the Celsius display on their electronic display) and you'll finally feel vindicated when you learn that even though many Americans still cling to their antiquated units (because that's what makes America great) that anyone who actually has to measure anything fungible is using the metric system-- except for milk-- so even that gallon of gas you're burning in your SUV is actually measured in liters and then converted to gallons so you can feel patriotic; so here's some advice on how to start the metrication process: the next time you get on your digital scale, take a load off, ease up on the precision, and measure your weight in kilograms . . . you might reconsider that diet and decide to eat a croissant.

Rorschach is a Rorschach Test (or perhaps a Litmus Test)

Last year my son Ian was the star of Halloween, when he went viral as Eleven from Stranger Things, but this year props go to Alex, whose costume is literally a pop cultural Rorschach test . . . because he is dressed as Rorschach, the anti-hero from the greatest graphic novel ever written (Watchmen) and while his costume is a bit obscure, people who recognize him feel hip and in-the-know and have all kinds of good associations and perceptions, while those who don't will have their own unfounded and weird reactions to his inkblot mask . . . so maybe it's more of a litmus test for pop cultural literacy, not a Rorschach test . . . but my apologies for the imprecision, I'm writing this sentence quickly and under duress because it's Friday afternoon and my kids are going to a sleepover to binge on Stranger Things and my wife is encouraging me to mention the fact that Alex's mask changes shapes when he breathes and that she is responsible for not only this special mask but also the rest of the ensemble.

Bladerunner 2049

Last weekend felt shorter than normal because I spent the bulk of it watching Bladerunner 2049 (though my son Ian said he thought it went super fast, I actually fell asleep at one point while sitting up straight and watching intently-- my head snapped back and I nearly got whiplash-- despite this, I did really like the story, the Harrison Ford cameo, the ethical dilemmas, the sci-fi scenery and the fantastic waterlogged ending fight . . . but I'm warning you, this thing is long like Captain America:Civil War is long).

Listen to This (Both Parts)

I'd like to publicly thank my wife for a great podcast recommendation-- I listened to both The Skip Tracer Part I and The Skip Tracer Part II today, and I assure you that this is a story like no other: you'll meet the greatest bounty hunter in the universe (she's a very short Hispanic lady with a chihuahua) and accompany her on an serpentine adventure that will twist and turn through the political landscape so abruptly and adeptly you won't know where you stand at the end . . . all I know is that I would make a terrible bounty hunter.

Aiding and Abetting to Avoid Tooth Decay

I'd prefer if my kids spent this Halloween perpetrating some good old-fashioned mischief and vandalism, rather than begging for sugary sugary treats (or even binge-watching the new season of Stranger Things . . . Netflix doesn't give you diabetes). 

The Test 100: The Exciting Super Test

To celebrate our 100th episode, Stacey administers a very exciting super test (on tests) and Cunningham and I learn a great deal-- although I do pull off an extremely lucky 3 out of 7 . . . I defy anyone to do better; so tune in, keep score, and if you don't learn something during this one, you can punch me in the shoulder (but not too hard).

A Good Deed Is a Good Deed, Case Closed

After a convivial dinner at Lola, a fun rock show at the Old Franklin Schoolhouse (The Roadside Graves, my favorite local band, finished the event) and a little too much imbibing of the spirits, my wife and I were walking back to Paul's car to catch a ride home and we came across a parked car with the hatchback open and my wife decided to do a good deed and close the hatch, but Paul and I thought she shouldn't touch someone else's car-- perhaps the owner had left the hatch open for a reason-- but Catherine was committed to doing a good deed so she closed it, and then, moments after she had shut the hatch, the owner of the car appeared-- thanked Cat for her concern-- and then opened the hatch so he could get the rest of the groceries.

The Main Thing About the Future is You're Not In It

If you're a fan of Shane Carruth's time-travel film Primer-- which Chuck Klosterman called the finest and most realistic time-travel movie ever made-- then you'll love reading How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu . . . it's a novel wrapped in a paradox of a conundrum, with charts and footnotes to aid and abet your confusion; at first, I pored over the diagrams and tried to understand the timeline, but soon enough I gave up (the same thing happened with Primer . . .  I could look at this chart for the next twenty years, then time travel back to now and do it all over again, and I still wouldn't understand it) and I just forged ahead into the future of the story, turning pages whether I fully understood them or not, just as I'm doing with my life


Diwali Miracle

My wife had off yesterday for Diwali-- her district has a high percentage of Indian students and "the festival of lights" is a very popular Hindu and Jain holiday-- and she originally planned to use her free time to take a trip to DSW and buy yet another pair of shoes, but then thought better of it (she has over a hundred pairs of shoes) and she did some fall cleaning instead, and while she was rummaging through a drawer full of art supplies in Ian's room, she found Ian's pet lizard-- alive and well!-- the lizard that has been missing since October 1st when Ian and Alex negligently left him on a toy truck in Alex's room and-- surprise?-- when they returned he was gone . . . so we assumed that he disappeared into the storage space between the walls or was eaten by the dog, but he somehow made it across the hall back to Ian's room and slipped into a dresser drawer-- Umberto Eco calls these moments in movies and books when you have to fill in the time between scenes or chapters "transitional walks" . . . no one knows exactly what happened to Hamlet on that pirate ship, you just have to imagine it, and we'll never now what Bossk did for those 19 days out in "the wild" of our house, but I like to imagine that he had many nocturnal adventures, journeying to the sink to lick water droplets from the cool porcelain, evading the dog (who sleeps in Ian's room and loves to eat small critters) and hunting bugs under Ian's bed . . . anyway, if Catherine didn't have off for Diwali, the lizard would have never been found, so I'm thinking of converting to Hinduism . . . and making Ian do so as well-- he was really sad about the purported death of his lizard, I caught him crying in the shower a week after Bossk had gone missing, and so yesterday Catherine took him out of school an hour early so he could see the miracle of the lizard before going to the middle school soccer game (and so she could bask in her heroic mother-of-the year Diwali light) and also, I should point out that we've got a new mystery to solve, a mouse was eating food on the shelves in the study so Catherine put a glue trap out last night on the table and now the glue trap is gone, which means a mouse is dragging it around somewhere (or the dog ate it) and so while we've got the lizard back in his tank, there's another creature loose in our house, having wacky adventures-- I'll keep you posted.

Westeros Needs Trump, America Doesn't

My wife and I are making our way through Season 7 of Game of Thrones, and it's obvious Westeros needs Donald Trump far more than the United States does (is there any way to digitally deport him?) because Westeros does need a wall to protect it from an onslaught of illegal white walker immigrants, and the force manning the wall does need bolstering to combat this onslaught . . . Jon Snow and Samwell Tarly need some of Trump's rhetorical expertise in order to convince the people, the rulers, and the intelligentsia of Westeros that there is a real threat headed their way (and wildling Craster really was an incestuous rapist, so Trump would have a ball teeing off on him) but here in America, illegal immigration is a non-issue that Trump brought to the forefront at the expense of problems that actually need to be addressed-- healthcare and wage disparity, the demise of unionization, failing infrastructure and global warming-- and while this was a brilliant rhetorical move, it's been quite awful for our nation-- a classic "wag the dog" so that the citizens focus on a perceived outside threat when the really trouble lies within the walls . . . this is especially problematic in our polarized political climate, as you have to take the opposite side in order to prove your party bona fides, so instead of moderation-- no work permits,no general amnesty and no easy citizenship for illegals . . . but also no threats to deport them all and build a wall to keep them out, as they are a valuable part of our economy-- this sort of sophistication is a tough position to profess in our political climate, and when pressed, most rational people will say that we shouldn't open are borders to anyone and everyone-- that's reasonable-- but there's also no major problem with illegal immigrants in America-- Trump fabricated that issue, unlike the white walkers, which are very real and bring nothing to the table: no work ethic, no delicious cuisine, and no skill at soccer . . . so Trump can head to Westeros and get to work on financing his big beautiful wall, but-- if you ask me-- America needs better tamales and an infusion of soccer expertise.

Joyce Carol Oates Has Got the (Good Book) Look

A few days ago I coined the term "man-ecdote" . . . it's a short tale told by a guy, from a masculine perspective, and if a lady is present, she might chastise him for expressing his outdated chauvinistic views in a post-gender/post-feminist world; here is a real example, recounted by yours truly-- a man-- in the office yesterday . . . at some point when I'm reading a hardcover book written by a woman, I turn to the inside of the dust jacket and appraise the photo of the author, and if she's bookish and frumpy then I'm pleased (as I was with Nancy Isenberg, the writer of White Trash: the 400 Year Untold History of Class in America, who looked exactly as I imagined a chick who would write a dense, polemical history tome would look) but if she's inappropriately good looking for the subject matter (God knows why, but I allow mystery and chick-lit authors a higher attractiveness to credibility ratio) then I'm slightly annoyed and wonder if what I'm reading is worthy of my time, and I think this stems from two (possibly intertwined) reasons:

1) I don't think it's fair that someone who is fit and sexy and put-together has also managed to write a quality piece of literature and/or non-fiction . . . that's monopolizing all the good stuff;

2) I think homely women with weird hair and glasses (e.g. Joyce Carol Oates) are smarter and more pensive than super-hot bombshells and thus they are more likely to have deep and profound thoughts, and so I trust their intellectual discourse more;

while Susan Sontag has alerted me to all the paradoxes and contradictions and stupidity of this kind of thinking, it's still hard to avoid doing it, because I'm a stupid man, full of stupid "man-ecdotes," and-- as a tangential bonus-- I'd also like to point out that if you tell a little story about some caramel glazed egg custard in a flaky and delicious pastry shell, then you've just recounted a "flan-ecdote."

Mortgage Interest and Appreciation

I like when the weather gets cold and rainy because then I feel like I'm getting my money's worth out of my house.

You Got Some Bubba Bona Fides?

Nancy Isenberg's treatise White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America is a detailed slog through the swampy history of class in America-- in many ways this tale parallels the story of race in our country, with plenty of cultural division, desired separation, but also the paradox of romanticized identification and appropriation-- she starts with the british colonizers dumping the "waste people" in America, and makes her way to Jimmy Carter running a redneck campaign to defeat George Wallace, Burt Reynolds defeating the hillbillies in Deliverance-- the city boys contending with feral rednecks and learning to be "real men" in this country crucible, but then in his next film (Smokey and the Bandit) Reynolds becomes the rednecks he was fighting, and leaves the shackles of society with runaway bride Sally Field . . . scalawags and squatters, indentured servants and trailer trash, they've been with us since the formation of this great nation, and while they were often derided, romanticized, alienated, and disenfranchised, you can't ignore them . . . Honest Abe Lincoln was called a "mudsill" and "Kentucky trash" and Andrew Jackson a "rude ill-tempered cracker," and Bill Clinton confused things the most-- he was deemed "our first black president" by many notables, but also had the reputation as Slick Willie, a fast talking Southern snake oil salesman . . . from Dolly Parton to Daisy Duke to Tammy Faye Baker to Sarah Palin, there's been no easy way to draw the line between white trash tramp and American treasure . . . we all know the tropes, from The Andy Griffith Show and The Beverly Hillbillies, on up to Swamp People and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo-- and Isenberg ends with the typical lessons that we all know-- we referring to the educated middle class . . . if you help the poor, there will be a political backlash, and the poor will often vote against their best interests because the people trying to help are portrayed at Northeastern liberal elite bureaucratic monsters, who want to take money from the hard-working salt-of-the-earth and give it to the undeserving, and that real men and women don't need socialist government hand-outs and the men to be admired are those who did it themselves, outside the system, without the sympathy of the city folks . . . and Donald Trump figured out a way--despite his lack of Bubba bona fides-- to appeal to this crowd; it's a load of bulshit, of course, as it's very hard in America to make it out of the trailer or the swamp-- though we espouse the American Dream, we talk the talk but we don't walk the walk (we hand our money down through bloodlines much more than European countries, and we have low rates of social mobility) and there is an element of Social Darwinism and eugenic breeding to American class lines that runs deeper than it should, considering our ultimate aim as a nation-- Isenberg explores this topic in the middle of the book, and she ends by discussing the plight of Billy Redden, the iconic banjo-playing inbred from Deliverance . . . he was chosen because of his odd look, did not play the banjo in the film, and wasn't paid very much . . . in 2012 he was interviewed and talked about his job working at Wal-Mart and how he was struggling to make ends meet, a mythic figure turned mundane . . . this is a comprehensive history, a book that is fascinating and boring by turns, full of detail, but it comes to an end a little before you think, because there are 120 pages of endnotes-- whew-- and while it was a fascinating journey, I'm glad to be out of that world . . . if you want something shorter, try Hillbilly Elegy.

The Test 99: Super Numbers (and Their Origin Stories)

This week on The Test, I give the ladies a numbers quiz with minimal math (although things still get fairly ugly, numerically speaking) and there's plenty of bonus material: I give some parenting advice, Stacey confesses to another crime, and Cunningham says some words that may or may not pertain to the answer . . . so tune in, keep score, and if you don't learn something, I'll give you a full refund.

I Look Generic (and So Does My Car)

I was stopped at a light on Woodbridge Avenue today, and I heard a short "BEEP" but I didn't think it was intended for me; at the next light, I heard the same short, lighthearted "BEEP" and I turned my head and the beep was coming from a postal truck-- the driver, an African American dude that I did not recognize, smiled, flashed me the peace sign, and then drove off . . . I think he thought I was someone else, which is understandable, as I'm pretty generic looking and I drive a gray Toyota Sienna minivan.

Intelligent Life, on Earth and in the Universe

My son Alex has been on my case to read Invincible, a comic series co-written by Robert Kirkman (the writer of The Walking Dead comics) and now that I've finished the first volume, I can see why-- it's excellent: smart, funny, and surprising-- but it's difficult playing the role of the student-- usually I'm telling my children to read this or watch that, and then checking to see if they got it, but now that dynamic is reversed . . . when I asked Alex about a plot-point I didn't understand, I had to suffer his disdain and disappointment over my sloppy reading: he grabbed the book and turned to the page I missed-- a single wordless panel that explained everything I didn't understand, and I immediately knew what it was like to be a student in my Shakespeare class . . . I know where all the key quotations are in the sea of Elizabethan English, and I'm always pointing them out to lost students; anyway, I can see how Alex relates to the story-- it starts as a typical father/son adventure in the framework of a superhero milieu, and it seems the father has an archetypal escaped-from-an-alien-planet-Superman backstory but then you find out that the comic is playing with that trope, and the father is something of a lunatic, from a lunatic alien civilization, and he has a bizarre and abstract master-plan for Earth, his son, his alien people and culture, and everything else in the universe . . . and the son has to grapple with the fact that his dad is a callous overblown maniac in the guise of a father . . . perhaps I'll learn some valuable lessons from reading it.

There is Intelligent Life on Earth

Though Sam Harris often comes off as a pretentious douche (and his podcast has absurdly bombastic theme music) but despite this shortcoming of charm, I really like him and appreciate what he's doing for intellectual discourse; his 100th episode (he makes the Spock-like claim that the number has no special inherent meaning to him, of course) is fantastic-- Harris doesn't speak much, instead he lets Nicholas Christakis do the talking-- Christakis directs the Human Nature Lab at Yale, and he attained some viral video prominence because he was at the center of the Yale Halloween videos with the shrieking African-American girl who had some serious misunderstandings about free speech in America . . . Christakis discusses the current attacks on the first amendment that are happening on college campuses, mob mentality, and some of the clever AI research they are doing at his lab and he comes off as rational, extremely intelligent, empathetic, and compelling . . . so much so that Sam Harris makes an orgy joke!

Of Soccer and Bugs

Sunday we played in Philipsburg and it was ungodly humid and we were assaulted by gnats, and then at practice yesterday I got all bitten up by mosquitoes, and today, despite the fact that we were on a turf field, I got eaten alive by blackflies . . . where is fall?

Dave Unboxes Something!

The Rutgers Expository Writing class stresses the importance of "unpacking" the prompt-- the students need to really mull over the question being asked and carefully analyze all the implications of the language of the assignment-- and so in honor of the first "unpacking of a prompt," I have made an "unboxing video"-- if you're not aware, these videos are extraordinarily popular (and super-weird) . . . I watched a few to get the tone down . . . I also think this is a good time to celebrate the life and exploits of Henry "Box" Brown, a slave who mailed himself from Virginia to freedom in a small wooden crate-- he endured 27 hours of wagon, steamboat, and train transport before arriving in Pennsylvania, to be "unboxed" by the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee.

A Sentence in Which No One Gets Whacked

One night this summer, my kids and I began The Godfather-- a movie we greatly anticipated watching together, because we all enjoyed Goodfellas so much-- but then I left for a few minutes to pick up some pizza and when I returned they had turned off The Godfather; I entered heroically with the take-out, and they were sitting there giggling over an episode of How I Met Your Mother and so I asked just what the hell was going on, they said, "It got a little slow and mom said we could turn it off" and I took great umbrage at this, very great umbrage, I ranted and raved a bit about taste, aesthetics, the nature of art, the problems with the American youth, the short attention span of the cell-phone generation, the demise of the great film, and the fact that some things in life are difficult and require perseverance; my wife concluded that I was completely insane, but I shut off How I met Your Mother, sat my kids down with their pizza, and forced them to finish watching The Godfather and even though Ian said he enjoyed it thoroughly, everyone was pissed off at me and thought I was a lunatic . . . of course, the reason I wanted my kids to watch The Godfather was so that they could watch The Godfather II, which is a far better movie (the middle movie in a trilogy is usually the best because the characters are established, but you don't need to wrap everything up in a contrived bow . . . Rocky II and The Empire Strikes Back and The Two Towers are all good examples of this phenomenon) but I knew I couldn't reenact the whole Godfather enforced viewing fiasco, or I would end up divorced or worse, so instead I negotiated with my children . . . I told them if they watched Godfather II with me, then they could finally watch Deadpool, a movie which I had forbidden them to watch because my students described it as crass, gratuitous and disgusting, but I figured watching a cinematic masterpiece would balance out watching some perverse trash and I'm proud to say that everything worked out for the best: they loved and appreciated Godfather II-- or at least they pretended to do so-- and then they had a friend over and watched Deadpool on Friday night, and I stayed out of the TV room and never saw a second of it, which suits me just fine, and we solved our differences diplomatically, without having anyone whacked.

The Test 98: Brother Can You Spare a Bazillion

Cunningham leads our triumphant return with this extraordinary effort on the federal budget . . . her command of all things fiduciary will leave you breathless, and there's an extra-special heartfelt audio moment when I learn from Stacey that Tom Petty has passed into the great wide open; check it out, keep score, and enjoy our latest episode: The Test 98: Brother Can You Spare a Bazillion?

Make America Tough Again

The recent spate of awfulness-- the mass shooting in Vegas, floods and hurricanes, infrastructure and budgetary problems dealing with floods and hurricanes, the healthcare dilemma, the Equifax hack, the death of Tom Petty, etcetera, etcetera-- all this awfulness centers around a discussion that we seem to be afraid to have in America . . . we're fine talking about how we want to live, and many of us are living quite well . . . but we need to discuss how we are going to die; Republicans need to explicitly confess that they do not think healthcare is a right and that they are willing to let many people suffer and die so other people can have tax cuts . . . Democrats need to stop with all this Bernie Sanders bullshit and explain that if the government completely subsidizes healthcare, the poor aren't going to get great insurance-- they aren't going to have access to all the expensive procedures and drugs that "Cadillac" employer-provided insurance gives you, and so people are going to die-- there are only so many resources and every person can't consume an infinite amount-- it doesn't add up-- so we're going to have to put a price on life- and we're going to have to put a price on information as well . . . all of our information is out there, and if Republicans need to point out that if we privatize health care, you will be burdened by the lack of privacy of your information . . . we also need to discuss the price of having a Second Amendment and how important that is to Americans-- I think it's very important to a certain segment of the country and they have to realize the burden of violence and suicide that accompanies this desire . . . it's not a whole lot different than the fact that cigarettes and alcohol are legal and we tolerate an enormous death toll so we can enjoy those vices, but the discussion needs to be had-- everyone knows the cost of smoking and the dangers of drinking and driving-- but I don't think these other issues are being taught in school, perhaps because they are of a political bent and generally, school curriculums steer clear of politics, but it's time to address them, along with other political hot-button issues such as global warming and our budget for infrastructure projects: are we going to keep paying for houses to be rebuilt in flood zones or are we going to let these areas return to being wetlands? should we make people actually pay for privatized flood insurance? should we keep burning fossil fuels at this rate? should we incentivize solar? are we going to tolerate the massive death toll from having a transportation system based on big human-driven cars or is there an infrastructure alternative? . . . all these issues are existential and we're not tough enough to talk about them-- the Trump administration has actually forbidden the EPA to discuss "climate change"-- the Harry Potter series became insanely popular because it addressed death in a real and realistic way and kids appreciated that, and now the adults and the children in our country need to toughen up as well and have these discussions before it is too late . . . we all want a tax cut, but we've got to realize what that entails: people will die on bad roads, people will die in floods, people will die because they have no health coverage, people will die because of pollutants and carcinogens, people will die at the hands of terrorists and lunatics bearing arms . . . and this all may be worth the price of a tax cut (I really want a new computer!) but we should at least have a frank policy discussion about it before we decide on this course of action and this frank discussion should start sooner rather than later, when people are younger, rather than when they are narrow-minded and entrenched.

The Lament of the Ageing Sprinter

Once I was fast, but alas, that time has passed.

Dave Balances the Scales of Justice!

It's rare that a perfectly just punishment is meted out for a crime-- a reprisal not overly rash and vengeful but also not anemically sympathetic-- but I am proud to say I was able to dish out just such a comeuppance to a student this week . . . last week this particular student took an extra sheet of giant sized easel paper for his group and when he realized that his group already had enough giant sized easel paper and they didn't need this piece of giant sized easel paper, he crumpled it up and threw it into the trash, but I saw him do this and made him uncrumple the piece of paper and reattach it to the pad (this easel paper has a sticky upper edge, like a gigantic post-it note, so this was easy enough) and this week, when this student and his partner had to choose a quotation from "The Apology" by Socrates and then put it on a giant sheet of easel paper and hang it on the wall, I gleefully handed him the sheet that he had crumpled the week before, made him admit that this was the perfect punishment for his crime, and thoroughly enjoyed watching him smooth out the wrinkles so he could legibly write the quotation.

R.I.P. Tom Petty and Our Pet Lizard?

This has been a tough week in our house-- not only did rock legend Tom Petty's soul pass into the great wide open, but it also looks like its curtains for our pet lizard, a crested gecko named Bossk . . . he's been missing since Sunday and at this point, he's probably either died from lack of food, water, heat and humidity or he's been eaten by the dog; my stupid children are one hundred percent responsible for the probable death of Bossk-- which I've pointed this out to them-- because they took the lizard out of the tank (which is fine, he's quite tame) and put him on a toy truck in Alex's room (right by the crawl space door) and then left Alex's room for a moment to get something-- they both left the lizard unattended-- and when they returned (moments later they insist) the lizard was gone . . . and this led to a mad search on Sunday morning, Alex was late for his soccer game and the upstairs looked like Hurricane Maria had passed through . . . but no lizard, so then we set up heating stations and food and water stations in both rooms, but there's been no sign of him (and the dog kept eating the lizard food, a yucky reconstituted vegetable paste) and while I'm sad about Bossk's probable demise, I'm also sort of glad my kids learned this lesson-- because this is at least the third time they've lost the lizard in this manner . . . I found it once clinging to the wall behind a bookcase; so hopefully they've learned that you can't leave a loose lizard unattended (and it's hard for me to actually be angry about this, because my track record with lizards is absolutely awful-- my room mate Rob and I had one in college, which we tried to keep in a wooden bird cage because we liked the aesthetic, but it promptly escaped-- three weeks later it crawled out from wherever it was hiding and died on the rug . . . then, after college, when I was living in a shitty house on Route 18 with eight other people, I had a monitor lizard and when I was away on vacation, someone kicked the heat rock plug out and it froze to death . . . because we were living in a house with no insulation, not an ideal habitat for a tropical creature . . . so anyway, we'll probably replace Bossk with a similar critter and hopefully my kids will keep a better eye on his successor, but-- judging by their ability to learn from their mistakes, I'm not particularly optimistic).

Tom Petty = America

Some people prefer The Beatles, others go for The Rolling Stones (I'm a Stones guy) but everybody, every red-blooded American, loves Tom Petty (and Creedence, of course) and he'll be sorely missed-- not missed in an abstract way, the way people lamented losing the great "talent" of Prince and Bowie-- but missed as a songwriter and as a significant contributor to our shared sonic landscape . . . Tom Petty is the tolerable Bob Dylan, the guy whose songs you listen to if you need to remove a bad song from your head . . . he's the guy I'm most comfortable with on the guitar, and I'm sure that's true for many back porch strummers . . . I once claimed in some hyperbolic G:TB post that "Don't Come Around Here No More" is the greatest song/video combination in the history of music, and I'm sticking to that . . . I learned of his death from Stacey, while we were recording The Test and I was very sad, but then I learned that he wasn't dead yet and I hoped he would recover and make a great late life album, like Johnny Cash and Gregg Allman and Willie Nelson have done, but I guess that's not to be . . . anyway, I'm glad his last album, Hypnotic Eye, topped the charts and I hope another songwriter as talented as Petty comes around sooner rather than later.

Drinking and (Not) Driving

Once autonomous self-driving cars become ubiquitous, it might be time for the United States (and the 12 other countries with a drinking age of 21) to think about lowering that number to resolve the you-can-serve-in-the-military-but-you-can't-order-a-beer paradox.

If You Hate Trump, You Should Read Larry Summers' Blog

If you'd like some anti-Trump fodder with more policy analysis and less ad hominem rhetoric, listen to the new episode of Freakonomics:"Why Larry Summers is the Economist Everyone Hates to Love" . . . Summers is the abrasive genius who has acted as US Treasury Secretary, chief economist for the Obama administration and the world bank, and president of Harvard-- until some remarks he made were deemed sexist and he resigned . . . anyway, Summers explains why many of Trump's economic policies are misguided, why his credibility (or lack thereof) is important to economic issues, and why we can't streamline the government to the extent that conservatives would like; here are a couple of things that I liked:

1) Summers thinks Trump is right in principle about corporate tax reform, though the administration hasn't implemented any policy on this (and Summers has no confidence that they have the know-how to do so) and he uses this wonderful library analogy to explain what we've been doing for the past seven years with corporate taxes:

Permit me an analogy here. Imagine that you are running a library and that there is a substantial volume of overdue books. You might offer amnesty to get people to return the books. You might announce you will never offer amnesty, so people will take fines seriously and return the books. Only an idiot would put a sign on the door saying, “No amnesty now, but we’re thinking hard about amnesty for next month.
You laugh, but American corporations have $2 trillion-plus overseas. If they bring that cash back right now, they pay 35 percent. If you’ve picked up any newspaper in the last seven years, you’ll know that Congress has been actively debating changes to that policy—for seven years. Just like the sign on the door of the library saying they’re thinking about amnesty for next month. It would be hard to conceive a policy better designed to keep that cash outside the US and not invested in the US than the policy we have pursued. That’s why I stress business tax reform as important for economic growth.
2) Summers explains why the government can't be downsized . . . he has several reasons, all of which he explains on his blog-- the piece is short and worth reading-- but the most telling statistic is that the relative price of a TV and a day in the hospital has changed by a factor of 100 since the 1980's;

3) I also like this piece about how "America needs its unions more than ever" about how the balance in power has shifted dramatically from the employee to the employer, and that's not changing any time soon (case in point, my groceries were delivered at 4:45 AM this morning, it was pitch black and the dog started barking when a guy in an Amazon Fresh truck pulled up, got out with a flashlight, and exchanged the containers on our porch . . . all hail Amazon . . . but I hope that guy was getting some overtime pay).

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