Yes, we’re just too damn lazy

April 12, 2017

At least that appears to be what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. I don’t know about most people, but my wife and I work our asses off working, raising our kids, and renovating our house. We cook most of our meals and do our own minor maintenance on our vehicles. The amount of time we get to spend with each other is maybe 90 minutes a night on weekdays, while the weekends fluctuate a bit because we are continually trying to fit more into our days.

Cowen talks about the midwest knowing the “answers” for why the economy is tanking, and it’s that we’re lazy. Not that we’re overburdened. Not that going to college dumps tens of thousands (if you’re lucky it’s that low) of debt onto you. That those of us who should be in the most aggressive stages of our careers were kneecapped by the financial crisis and still haven’t recovered (and likely never will, as our earnings will be lower at every step of our careers than those who came before us and those who will follow us).

We don’t start new businesses or move every five years or anything else because we can’t.  We have two kids. Right now we have insurance through an employer. We have a roof over our heads. No, that’s not something we can toss to the wind and hope it comes out on the right side. Not when things like Amazon and Wal-Mart make a business putting folks like my wife and I out of business. Not that we could get a small business loan to begin with (circle back to those college loans and now our house loan and, looky there, there’s a mound of debt there). And then there is the shrinking social safety net that the GOP looks to continually chip away at because, I don’t know, Amurica or something.

This isn’t laziness. This is just reality for the majority of us. Our jobs don’t pay enough, our debt load is too high, and there isn’t a good enough social safety net to catch us if we fall. Want us to take more chances? Make us less desperate just to hang on. Make it so we know we can take our kids to the doctor  because we have a single payer health care system. Make going to college affordable for our kids since it wasn’t for us. Maybe invest our tax money into our infrastructure and schools instead of into air craft carriers (though I guess bringing up military spending as a place where we can pull back on our budget makes me a bad American, huh Standler?) .

While Cowen laments white males earning less in 2015 than they did in 1969, instead of saying it’s because America is too lazy maybe it’s because the Right has fought tooth and nail to destroy unions for the past thirty years. Maybe it’s the result of high paying manufacturing jobs off-shoring or being lost to automation. Maybe it’s the fact that the minimum wage has been allowed to fall so far behind inflation that it’s worth less now than it was in 1969, too.

We are not lazy. We are not drug addicts. We are not monsters. We’re Americans. We work hard.


They Get What They Deserve

April 12, 2017

Alright, I guess there was some sort of election in Kansas to see who would take over the seat vacated by Mike Pompeo, and the Democrats didn’t get clobbered as badly as they usually do.

Which is good news. And I get that it might portend well for future such races. And it might reflect a growing disillusionment with the GOP. And all of that stuff.

None of which I really want to talk about.

What I do want to think out loud a bit of is just how…blind? Kansan voters must be. They elected themselves a largely GOP local government from the state houses to the governorship. And their state has been in free fall ever since. Their local economy? Sucks. The number of folks with health insurance? Sucks. Their schools? Sucks so bad their schools had to take the state government to court just to get adequate funding.

And they keep voting for the GOP.  They keep voting for the people who have sent their state into disarray. At some point I can’t feel sorry for the midwest. Yeah, changes in our economy have really decimated parts of this country. Yeah, it sucks. But coal isn’t coming back as a big thing in Appalacia. Steel isn’t coming back as a big thing in the Rust Belt. And what factories do open up will employ far more machines than people. And it’s not going to matter how much money we let the wealthy keep in their pockets, or how much of our natural resources we allow them to pollute, steal, and destroy.


kids do stupid things

February 10, 2017

Raise your hand if you have a teenager. Alright, so you know exactly what I’m talking about in my post title.

The Boy has just been making stupid decision after stupid decision lately, all concerning school and him trying to get out of doing all of the work tasked to him.

Now, if The Boy had actual difficulty with school I could sort of understand it. He’s at that point in junior high where they begin ramping up the homework to get kids ready for the harder world of high school.

The Boy doesn’t have that issue, though. School work comes exceptionally easy to him. Even when he complains about his pre-calc being “hard” he is getting it done within half an hour and getting an A on it.

Academically he is ridiculously gifted.

He’s just immature as hell. Like 8 year old level of maturity.

I could understand not wanting to stack his time after school with homework if he gained anything from it. But he doesn’t. The amount of time he can sit in front of a video screen doesn’t change. His bed time doesn’t change. Nothing changes.

Until his grades slip, we have numerous “discussions,” and he begins to lose his screen time entirely while he gets his grades back into shape.

This week he compounded that by breaking a mouth piece on his clarinet and not telling us for a week –  at which point his band teacher emailed us to let us know what was going on, and having a poster project due in English that he didn’t tell us about, and now tried to use weekend plans to get out of doing it.

It’s just a vicious lack of maturity leading to a compounding of stupidity. And in eight about eight minutes when The Boy gets off the bus I get to run head on into this and deal with it. What I would give for just a week of non-stupid mistakes. Screw up but don’t do it because you’re being willfully stupid.

Good luck with that.

How To Embrace Red Ink and Buy A Lot of Expensive Spices

February 7, 2017

This weekend I was driving around far too much and I caught part of a cooking show on the radio.  I love radio in the car. I loath putting a CD in the majority of the time, unless I’ve gotten something out of the library and I just want to make sure I listen to it before I have to return it. So, I’m driving around and I’m listening to the radio when this cooking show comes on and I’m like, Alright, this is good. I like cooking, I like people talking about cooking, I’m going to stick with this.

It wasn’t a bad show. I want to put that out there first, because other than that I’m not sure I’m going to say much else that’s positive because I have such a gripe about it. The main segment that I caught was talking about substituting things in recipes for various reasons, and the lead-up to this peaked my interest because why wouldn’t it? The idea of inserting weird things into common recipes to give them a twist, at least that’s what I was sort of thinking it would take for its direction.

And it did.

Except it was always taking out this pretty common (read: inexpensive) ingredient and popping in this much more expensive ingredient.

Now, we cook a lot of our meals. I would say that in any given week six of the seven nights of the week involves me standing over the stove.  Shopping for ingredients isn’t uncommon and I’m pretty well accustomed to the prices I have to pay for most of what I want, and where I can skimp.

Which is where this radio show irritated me. Nothing against the substitutions themselves, which I’m sure would be at least interesting to try out. It’s more the price difference.  There comes a point where continuously subbing out low cost ingredients for high cost ingredients does more damage to my finances than the benefits it brings to my table. And if your goal is to push people to diversify what’s on their table then putting a financial hurdle in front of them isn’t exactly the best place to start.

Cooking/baking isn’t meant to be affordable, I guess.

Twitter is just too depressing

January 26, 2017

I think I am going to have to start limiting my twitter reading. Frankly, it’s just too depressing with a constant barrage of news involving more anti-intellectualism, anti-science, anti-humanities, growing racism, growing ethnocentrism… .

I really don’t get the appeal of this world or why people want it. I hear constant talk about how good it “used to be,” but when was this? The rapid growth of the US after WWII was fueled by folks coming home from being abroad and enjoying things like the GI Bill to go to college. While it might sound trite to refer to fighting in the war as an opportunity to travel, it’s something I have heard referenced continually by vets as something that opened their eyes to the world, just the ability to go out and see more of it. And it is still something I hear from people who do a lot of traveling now.

Now…I don’t know. I get this impression of fear and distaste for the other, for education. People don’t trust science because…why? Is it just that they are being told things they don’t want to hear? Do they blame it for losing their job? I don’t get it.

While the bulk of my twitter feed is filled with people wanting/trying to fight these things, it’s still just overwhelming and depressing.

Hail Chris Kimball! Hail Chris Kimball!

January 23, 2017

well, yesterday I made veggie bibimbap. It’s a Korean dish with rice, a whole bunch of veggies, some pickled veggies as a side, and a soft fried egg – though we went ahead, broke the yolks, and cooked them through. I had very little confidence in pulling this off at all, especially the eggs where my general lack of patience in putting together a meal really just works against me in all sorts of ways.

But apparently I damn near nailed it. Even the kid didn’t hate it, or at least he didn’t mind everything but the pickled veggies (carrots, bean sprouts, and cucumber).

Except I didn’t nail it. Chris Kimball nailed it. The recipe I used comes from America’s Test Kitchen Complete Vegetarian Cookbook. If you’re a vegetarian, or your spouse, or whoever…this is quickly becoming a must have recommendation from me. I have it out of the library right now, and I went through it and bookmarked all of the recipes that seemed interesting, and essentially 3/4 of the book has a slip of paper tucked into it. This has become the first step in deciding what cookbook we want to buy.  Needless to say this is a book that has passed this first step.

But this isn’t so much about the book as about the guy who apparently built this empire of foolproof cooking. The Wife and I were talking about the bibimbap last night, and I had just heard part of the Milk Street Radio Show while picking up some chocolate covered pretzels that we’re selling as part of a parents of toddlers group we’re in, and it became a conversation about the singularity of Chris Kimball.

From what I understand, everything began with Kimball putting together Cook’s Country magazine, which was very…spartan, I guess, when it first came up. Perhaps a better way of explaining it is that it had a honed focus on creating the best recipes it could, and giving people the ability to cook something, and to cook it well, just by following the directions.

Cook’s Country is still around.

Then there is America’s Test Kitchen.

Now there is Milk Street.

These three things encompass many things within their spheres from television shows to radio shows, from podcasts to cookbooks, to a cooking school.

Yes, this man is busy. He’s also exacting, talented, and a true gift to the at home cook. In twenty years, he is someone who should be talked about in the same vein as Julia Childs and Jacque Pepin as chefs who brought the nuts and bolts of cooking into the home, pulled back the curtain, and made it wholly accessible. This is different from people like Mario Batalli and Anthony Bourdain (both of whom I also enjoy). Yeah, they’re chefs, yeah, they talk about food. But they don’t make it accessible. They don’t put the pan in our hands in the same way and make their experience ours.

If you like cooking, and somehow have not drifted into Chris Kimball’s orbit, you need to do yourself a favor and take yourself there.

PBS just takes up too much money…

January 19, 2017

…and other bullshit the Republicans try to pass off as truth. Alyssa Rosenberg has a good article up today about threats by the GOP to use killing off things like the Endowment for the Arts, the Endowment for the Humanities, and funding for public broadcasting in the guise of balancing the budget.

She runs the numbers quite well and is worth looking at just for that in seeing how much money is actually budgeted for those things versus the size of the budget as a whole. What could also be mentioned is the over $500 billion budgeted for the military. For comparison’s sake, China had the second highest budget in the world for their military and it came in at less than $150 billion. Do we really get $350 billion dollars worth of advantage over China? I don’t think so. And the billions that will be added back onto the budget if/when the GOP manages to actually kill the ACA, and maybe try to replace it with whatever cocked up scheme they can that will really just be another way of sending thousands of people to an early grave since they can no longer afford insurance to cover their health costs.

The point is the same as Rosenberg’s. There are many places where actual budget savings can be had, pork that could be cut if they were really interested in doing it, priorities shifted that would maybe spend our tax dollars better. The money saved by going after these programs has nothing to do with the budget.

Me Need Sleep!

January 18, 2017

Little Girl was not a happy camper last night. She woke up in the middle of the night with a wet bed, I couldn’t figure out if she had just drooled a TON or if her diaper had somehow missed its duty. Regardless the bed got changed/wiped down/etc. Little girl was put back to bed.

Then I got back to bed. Then the cat started mewling. He had food. He had water. The litterbox was clean. He was just an evil cat in the middle of the night.

Then I went back to bed.

Two hours later someone was up again. I went up, nothing was wrong. Little Girl needed a hug. She got a hug. She got snuggled back down in her crib. Her music was turned on. She drifted back off to sleep, or at least I assume she did because she didn’t cry the rest of the night.

Then I went back to bed. At around 4:30 this morning. I’m exhausted. I’ve already ploughed through a moderately caffeinated pot of coffee and have brewed a new decaf pot. I’m trying not to just eat my way through the cupboards as a way of organizing them.

I’m just trying to survive the day at this point.

Well, they buried the lead here

January 16, 2017

Alright, I got this stupid tweet in my twitter feed a few minutes ago insinuating that there was a link between GM’s recent announcement of investing in the US and Trump being a jackass on twitter. And there might have been something to it, considering how companies that Trump has targeted have seen their stocks fall in the immediate aftermath as Wall St. acts like total bleeping idiots thinking people are really going to care. It’s like the people who thought folks would actually boycott Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because some Trumpers got all upset by what they thought might possibly be in it if you looked for it.

Except here’s the article from The Detroit News on GM’s plans.

Did anyone else catch the important parts? Hint: they weren’t in the title or in the first half (or even 3/4) of the article. Here:

GM’s announcement of new U.S. jobs and investment has been previously scheduled and was not in response to Trump, according to a source familiar with the company’s planning.

Oh, look. It had nothing to do with Trump. Oh, and look at this:

GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and Trump talked following the tweet, and Barra told reporters on Jan. 8 that GM did not plan to change its production with the Cruze hatchback.

Want to know how Trump figured/thought GM would be “following suit” with Ford/Chrysler? I’ll take a wild guess that GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra told him it was happening 8 days ago.

And what else was buried at the bottom of the article, other than what explained the timing of Trump’s tweets and this phony bullcrap connection the supposedly liberal media cooked up? Just a list of the thousands of jobs GM is/has been cutting.

What makes this all worse is that the twitter links that are popping up are selling this as some sort of shakedown by Trump forcing GM to give us some gosh darn jobs, and newspapers having all of the dots but refusing to go through the work of at least attempting to connect them.

Commitment Issues to Nintendo

January 16, 2017

I’ve been fighting this blog post for a few days now, at least partially because I had been looking forward to this thing and that our U and Wii have seen better days and have gotten to the point where being replaced wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. We use our U to watch Netflix, occasionally surf the web, and to keep the kids out of trouble for stretches of time when we’re doing minor things like trying to clean the house or make dinner. Our game console gets a lot of wear and tear.

But there was something about this reveal that just let me down in a vague, unidentifiable way.  The price was a minor let down, especially for a system that is still clearly a step slower than its rivals. It hasn’t showcased much actual third party support yet. And it doesn’t have a lot of first party titles immediately out to make it a must buy. On top of that Nintendo is changing course and is going to start charging for online play. Which is essentially a Splatoon tax, considering how much their games have utilized online play.

I think what really hurts is that this is a company I grew up with. Yeah, my first system was an old Atari 2600, but I then had an NES and an SNES (and a Genesis, but we won’t tell anyone). They were worn out from my playing them. I loved them. I still remember games from them, and playing with the neighbor kid. Games like Gun.Smoke, DoubleDragon, Tecmo Bowl, Punch Out, and Mario Bros. are touchstones of my youth.

I am really unsure I’ll be getting the Switch, though. Part of it is cost, clearly. Part of it is that the ability to take the thing on the go, or to the john, just doesn’t sell itself for me. If I leave the house, I’m driving and I’m keeping an eye on a  two year old. I’m not playing video games.

At the same time, I have a two year old. Video games are something she is just a bit young for. My 13 yr old is an avid gamer, but he spends more time on his tablet lately than on a console. And if/when we can afford a new cell phone,he’ll probably be glued to that. So, there probably won’t be this hard push from the young ones for this system, either.

I hope the Switch does well. I like Nintendo, and I don’t mind the idea of it being around when my Little Girl is old enough to be interested in Mario Bros. and Kirby. But the longer I go w/o buying a system, the harder I think it will be to get me back in the loop.