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Former Star Crash

My dream last night:

Sitting in a parked car with a friend who is dropping me off back home, a vintage slightly beat up Porsche 914 runs into us. A handsome gentleman gets out as do we to inspect the damage. He seems really sorry and is deeply apologetic while taking full fault for being distracted.

After a few minutes of my friend and he talking over the next steps, we have this exchange:

Me: Does anyone ever tell you you look like Andrew McCarthy?

Him: Man, ALL THE TIME! (Waits a few beats)…. Especially when I travel, or when I’m at the bank. When I have to show my ID anywhere really…

Me: Is that because you’re Andrew McCarthy?

Him; That’s because I’m Andrew McCarthy (takes out ID and places it on hood of car along with insurance information so they can work out the crash).

We then proceed to have a really interesting conversation about the various roles I’ve enjoyed him in, the one’s he enjoyed working on, Minnesota versus California drivers, what it’s like being formerly famous, etc. A really good down to earth guy…

In my dreams, at least.

No News is No News

Execupundit.com: Cutting In Line

I like and respect Micheal Wade so I feel compelled to call out a couple of things mentioned in his piece about illegal immigration (which is worth reading for perspective sake).

Think of how many news stories you have seen on the plight of illegal immigrants that even mention individuals who are trying to enter the United States through the legal process.

How many stories was it? Ten? Twenty?

Zero?

This is essentially a “straw man” argument.

How many news stories have you seen on the house that doesn’t ever get broken into? How about the store that didn’t get shoplifted? How about the car that never got into an accident?

How many stories was it? Ten? Twenty?

Zero?

The answer, of course, is also zero. The reason is simple. No news is no news. The news only reports things that are different from the norm. Otherwise, it’s not news. The norm is that the vast majority of houses don’t get broken into. The vast majority of stores don’t experience theft. Most cars never get into an accident.

But you’d never know that from looking at the news because normal isn’t news.

Therefore, you may not be aware that about a million people (sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less) become legal permanent residents of the United States every year through the process we’ve established and have since the 1980’s.

That’s not news so why report it?

You also may not be aware that there are an approximately 10 Million Unauthorized immigrants currently in the United States and that that number has remained mostly stable for almost 20 years.

But here’s a key fact that isn’t reported regularly by the news quoted directly from Pew Research:

Between 2007 and 2021, the unauthorized immigrant population decreased by 1.75 million, or 14%.

Meanwhile, the lawful immigrant population grew by more than 8 million, a 29% increase, and the number of naturalized U.S. citizens grew by 49%.

(emphasis theirs)

But illegal immigration going down doesn’t make a good news story. Neither does lawful immigration going up.

It also doesn’t make a good “us vs. them” campaign point if you’re trying to get certain votes. It also doesn’t fit in with the narrative that we are being overrun by illegal immigrants. That it is a “crisis”. That people are “cutting in line”.

But, and hear me out here, it also will do nothing to assuage the fear that once those people do become citizens they will vote for the people who made that process easier for them, not harder.

Now that I’ve said that, what do you think all this concern about illegal immigration is really about?

Context Matters

As you know, I rarely discuss politics.

I’ve been seeing this piece by Jamelle Bouie (who is someone who I have respect for as a journalist and op-ed writer) making the rounds:

Opinion | Trump Wants Us to Know He Will Stop at Nothing in 2025 – The New York Times

Here’s a pull quote to use as an example:

With the help of these unscrupulous allies, Trump plans to turn the Department of Justice against his political opponents, prosecuting his critics and rivals. He would use the military to crush protests under the Insurrection Act — which he hoped to do during the summer of 2020 — and turn the power of the federal government against his perceived enemies.

Now, I’m not going to discuss whether I agree with it or not, because that is unimportant to the critique I’m about to provide. It is something that, frankly, large journalism as a whole continues to fail at time and time again when discussing these ideas. It is missing some very important context. Because, if you’ve not been paying close attention, here’s what you need to understand about not only Trump’s and his allies plans but, also, why his supporters and, frankly, the majority of modern Republicans/Conservatives are A-OK with those plans…

They believe this is already happening. They believe that the administrations of Obama and now Biden have weaponized the justice department and used it to punish its political enemies already. This is why it’s important to listen when they discuss “the Russia hoax” or “the stolen election”.

This is the tell. This is them telling you that Democracy, as they know it, is already dead. This is them explaining to you that all of these charges against Trump are not because of anything he actually did — they are only due to the fact that he’s the leading candidate (by far) for the Republican nomination.

Therefore, who cares if Trump not only does it in return when he is President again. They believe that he should do it even better, go even harder, and end Democracy even further? I mean, at least he’s doing it to the people they don’t like instead of the other way around.

Seriously, if you don’t understand that, to them, Democracy died almost 20 years ago already then you won’t understand why talking about saving it doesn’t matter to them now.

Yet, I rarely see this context really discussed in the media. The “what” makes a better sound bite but is useless without the “why”.

Looking For A Quiet Place

“I don’t know exactly when I stopped being able to tolerate environments like this,” I yelled to my wife three feet across the table from me, “But it seems recent.”

“I know,” she yelled back, “it’s like somebody flipped a switch and suddenly…”

“I know right!?” I replied as she took the words right out of my head. “I mean, we’re old now right? Maybe this is something that happens to everyone at a certain age…”

I continued, “I just want a place where we can have a nice cocktail or glass of wine and have a conversation at a normal volume. Some soft music or jazz playing below conversation level in the background. I know we don’t go out as much as we did when we were younger but those places don’t seem to exist anymore. Everywhere we go is like this is.”

We were at a recently opened new, hip, cocktail lounge. It was late-ish and they couldn’t seat us in the main section right away so we opted for their speakeasy-esque “dive bar” in the back. Being new we were not quite sure what to expect but almost as soon as we entered we were hit with the realization we had made the wrong choice. It was LOUD. The early 80’s hair band soundtrack was turned to 11 and, thus, all of the young and over-served the bar was full of had to be even louder. The cocktails were mediocre at best (I suppose this also might be by design to give it a “dive bar” feel). Despite every effort to try we couldn’t even find ironic humor in the experience. Our only goal became to finish our overpriced terrible drinks as quickly as possible and leave.

But other people seemed to be enjoying themselves. We’ve recently noticed that this seems to be the norm now. Every place we go — for a beer, for a cocktail, for a nice dinner — is JUST SO LOUD.

But, here’s the thing. This doesn’t seem like a change in all of these places. It feels like a change in me. We’ve been to several places recently and had the same experience. It feels like these sorts of places have always been this loud and what’s changed is my ability to adjust, tolerate, and possibly even enjoy it. But here we are.

In Praise of DIY YouTube

Can I take a moment to talk about how useful and awesome YouTube is for DIY stuff? Yes? Good!

This morning I started with having never installed a dryer vent before. I watched the above video and in less than a couple of hours had a freshly and properly vented dryer. How cool is that!

I’ve had at least a dozen different times during the Hague House restoration where, like that one scene in the Matrix, I went from complete lack of knowledge to success thanks to DIY videos on YouTube.

This feels like the future.

This Blog is 20 Years Old Today

IMG 6700

The very first post on this site is dated November 7th, 2003. Of course, I had been blogging before that, and there used to be posts dated slightly earlier. But, this blog actually began as an internally hosted one at the college I used to work for and I lost those earlier posts when I moved to a different platform and brought it public… Gosh, that seems like it was just yesterday. Not 20 years ago. Such is life.

This blog has had many different points of focus over the years. From geeky, mainly Apple, tech stuff to GTD-driven personal productivity stuff, to practical/actionable life advice stuff to the anything goes sort of thing it is now. And, that’s exactly what a blog should be — a reflection of your interest and attention over time. A reflection of who you are right now and where you’ve been. Blogs are living things that should grow at the same rate we do.

I don’t want to make too much of it. I just wanted to mark the occasion and reflect a little on how long 20 years is but how short it seems.

I’m still having a lot of fun here. More than ever. Let’s do it for 20 more!

POLLS are PROPAGANDA

The season is now upon us that I have to make this public service announcement:

Polls are the reality TV of journalism. Drama draws eyeballs. Never trust them. Do the math.

The recent NYT poll is an especially egregious example (No, I’m not linking to it). It is no better than media clickbait. Let’s do the math…

  • 3,662 individuals polled out of about 48 million… Not a representative sample size.
  • The margin of sampling error for each state is between 4.4 and 4.8 percentage points (which in this political environment where races are decided in under 1 pt is HUGE).
  • Also, they polled by only calling landline numbers? LANDLINES in 2023.

And yet, the vast majority of the rest of the media on all sides is treating it as fact with no journalistic skepticism (or, frankly, integrity).

If I use a poll to tell you Candidate X is way ahead, what effect on lazy voters (i.e. folks that don’t vote unless they have to) do you think that will have. Do you think that if they like Candidate X they will be more or less likely to get off their asses and vote? Now, what if that poll came from the “Paper of Record” that you know leans more heavily towards Candidate Y? Do you think they might have an interest in motivating folks with the fear that Candidate X might win?

POLLS are PROPAGANDA. Don’t trust them.

56

I was standing in the middle of the junior’s dresses section at Macy’s last night as my daughter determinedly searched for a dress to wear to her school’s Homecoming Dance, I couldn’t help but think of how this is not what 26 year old me would have imagined that age 56 would look like. I certainly couldn’t have imagined being dismissively waved off by a strong-willed teen girl (my teen girl) every time I tried to chime in. She, at 15, has a clearer idea of who she is and what she wants than I did at 15. Even, for that matter, at 26.

On the drive to dinner earlier that evening, we passed the building that used to house the place I was employed at 26. I reminisced briefly about those days. I thought to myself that if I could go back in time from age 56, I’d let that 26 year old know not to do one single thing differently. Not to make a single different choice and take every same diversion. That in that period there will be the darkest days you’ve ever been through. They. Will. Suck! But it will all be worth every heartbreak and triumph. It will be worth every second.

Because, in 30 years you will have an incredible life. One filled with friends you love, an incredible wife, a home you adore, and of course a wonderful strong-willed daughter who you love to serve and knows the damn dress she’s looking for and doesn’t need your help anymore. And you’ll be so happy and content with it all.

Here, at age 56, I know who I am (and I’m happy with him) and I know what I want (and I have it). It’s not lost on me what a blessing and privilege that is or what it took to get here.

Selfie of Me at Nina and Summit

Electric Skeptic (On EVs as a “solution” to climate change)

I’m skeptical of electric vehicles as a climate friendly solution as I see them as replacing one extractive finite earth-destroying fuel (oil) for another (mined minerals) while big-auto and big-energy make trillions by trying to convince us to replace the cars we have and throwing our current vehicles into landfills. All the while telling us that it is more “green” when, in fact, the only “green” is more money for big-auto and big-energy.

An answer I hear often to this is, “We here in [insert car friendly US city] need to be more like [insert bike friendly EU city].” And while I can appreciate the utopian dream behind that idea, I’m a realist. It’ll never happen…

One problem here is history (from an urban planning standpoint). Most cities and towns in Europe were built at a time when most people had no mode of personal transportation beyond their feet. Horses were expensive and carriages even more so. Bicycles are the natural progression from that mode and designed to “fit” where foot traffic does.

While most of the oldest cities and towns in the US were designed and built for horse and carriage. Especially the newer ones west of the original thirteen. Cars (horseless carriages) are the natural progression from that mode of transportation.

This is to say that, the US will likely never be like [insert bike friendly EU city here]. US cities are not designed to be and never intended to be.

Just from a pure cultural standpoint it’s just not how most of us really live. Those who have two jobs, or have kids to pick up from one place at one time and get to another by a different time so that they can get to a third place on time and they barely have time for that. Or those that have many places to be at throughout the day for their work. Or those that have two (or sometimes three) jobs to make ends meet. Or they have shopping to do for a family of three, or four, or five or six. Or those that are disabled. Or those that are elderly. Or those that, because they are not male and white, will never feel safe on a bike through a neighborhood in which it is felt they don’t belong. Or women who would never be in any vehicle alone where they could not lock a door. Or those that can’t ride a bike (yes, Virginia, some never learn for a variety or reasons).

The solution must progress from the problem (like foot to bike, carriage to car) not regress from it (car to carriage, bike to foot). Nor can we culturally swap who/where we are (car to bike) unless you can convince an entire country’s populous to change its culture.

I don’t have any magic solution to the problem. I think folks are being sold a bag of green by big corporations (with the help of big government) with everything to gain by doing so. The companies get to sell tens of millions of new vehicles and both they and buyers get to pretend they are doing something good for the planet when, really, they are likely doing even more harm than good. Especially because it further pushes off investment/drive towards actual clean/renewable/non-finite solutions.

It’s not about the land…

I mean, it is and it isn’t. Owning the land is the “what”. But it’s really about the “why”. It’s about what property ownership allows you to do. Not just for you but for your descendants.

As an example, my great-great-grandfather and grandmother were able to purchase 40 acres of land immediately following emancipation. Because of that land, the ability to farm it and derive other revenue streams from the land, free and clear of any debt or interest payment, they were able to send all eleven of their children to either college or trade school.

Before they passed, they set up a deed that made sure that land, which they also eventually grew to 116 acres, remained in the family and passed down to their heirs.

But what they passed down was not just the land — the “what”. They also passed down a living example and set of values – the “why”. They passed down the example of stewardship to further advancement.

One could use such a resource to fuel education. In a society that could find a way to take anything away from you if they wanted for no reason other than the color of your skin, education was the one thing they could never take or deny.

The result of this lesson is that our family is fourth generation college-educated because of this example. Ownership of the land is what allowed that.

People think of inheritance as stuff – money, furniture, property. And, while these things are important, they are simply things. Real inheritance is the freedom owning such things allows.

Our daughter will never have to pay rent or mortgage in her life if she does not want to. She will will get one of our houses when she’s of age and inherit our property when we pass, free and clear of any encumbrances. But, it’s not about the what, it’s about the why…

What could any of us do if we never had to worry about a roof over our head? If we never had to think about a mortgage payment or debt? For example (and this is our daughter’s plan), if you are in college and own a whole house, maybe you could rent out rooms and use the income to pay for school loan free. Perhaps, when you graduate and get a job, you get to net the whole amount without having to pay rent, or a car payment, or college loan debt. How would life be different if this is the “what” all of us had and the “why” we learned and put into action?

That’s what she’s really inheriting. And, if she’s learned anything from us, I hope it is the lessons we’ve learned from our ancestors; that we are simply stewards of this stuff that we’ve been fortunate enough to have passed down to us and her job is to do the same. To take it, grow it, make her life and those of her children better with it and leave it to the next generation better than she found it. But, most importantly, pass down the same set of values to keep the chain going. That’s what a legacy is.