Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Administrative Gospel

Yesterday in church my local nemesis said something along the lines of, "I have a cousin who is a very strong member of the church. In fact, he's served as a mission president in [exotic location]." This statement made me realize that there is strain of Mormonism dedicated to this idea that the level of the calling determines the strength of the member. It is like the prosperity gospel (the rich must be righteous because otherwise how'd they get so rich/the righteous must be rich because riches are a blessing from God and righteous people get blessed), but for people who love bureaucracies and climbing the greasy pole.

In this view, the strongest church member in each stake is the stake president, by definition. Each calling can be ranked in importance from there. Any able-bodied returned-missionary member serving as librarian must be a secret drinker or an OW sympathizer.

Of course, this is easily shown to be false. Compare, if you will (and you will!), Thomas B. Marsh and the feeblest survivor of the Martin or Willie handcart companies. Which had the higher administrative position? Which was a stronger member of the church?

I thought of the story recently shared in General Conference by President Eyring of the calling of a temple sealer. The man's wife expressed an inclination towards the administrative gospel when she said "that now she felt that she should not go with him because God had chosen him for so glorious and sacred a trust." In response, President Eyring "assured her that her husband would be honored by her company in the temple because of her great spiritual power." This couple were strong members, and not because the husband was set apart to so important a calling. The calling came in part because of their strength of membership. I say "in part" because otherwise we're just running the administrative gospel backwards. "Okay, fine, not every strong member has a great calling, but everyone with a great calling is a strong member." Not necessarily. The problem with that view is that it can lead those with higher callings to rest assured of their strength, which no one should ever do. The apostle Peter, one of the strongest church members there ever was, was warned to watch always lest he fall. If Peter needs to doubt his own awesomeness, I think the rest of us could stand to be wary, also.

Someone reading this could say with a sniff, "Sounds like the sour grapes of someone who's never had a higher calling." Yeah, probably. This administrative gospel viewpoint is so widespread that I don't doubt I'm touched by it. The point here isn't that I'm so great that I don't see the gospel through the same false prism that you do (that would be a different false prism called the hipster gospel). The point is that we all, to some extent, look through these false prisms, but we'd do well to try to stop.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

What's Wrong With Professional Development? Everything! (Write That Down.)

As part of my reassignment, I have to complete a professional development workshop. There is nothing in the world stupider than a professional development workshop.

The content is entirely opinions presented as facts (think of the "unhelpful high school teacher" meme). It focuses on meaningless platitudes instead of concrete directions (character traits students will have instead of tasks teachers will complete). It is the work of someone who justified his efforts through scale (Sixteen hours of material?! There must be something worthwhile in there!).

Here's one particular example. My materials read:

Albert Zauberman once said: “The worse the economy, the better the economists [sic]” This is now known as Zauberman’s Law.

Ooooh, Zauberman's Law! Better write that down and remember to use that in conversations so I sound smart!

Except when you Google search for "Zauberman's Law," here's what you get.

There is no Zauberman's Law. And it's unclear if there's even an economist named Albert Zauberman.

You get 17,000 results and none of the first page is about an economist named Albert Zauberman. Now, when you Google search for "[A Random Stranger] economist," you get 70,000 results and the first 12 are about me (the 13th is a false hit based on a misspelling, a common problem with my last name). So I'm more justified creating A Random Stranger's Law ("Professional development courses are for suckers") than the workshop creators are coming up with Zauberman's Law.

Working Conditions

Our school is using temporary space elsewhere on campus because of remodeling to our building. Yesterday we were told that the environmental cleanup for the World War Two commemoration parade has set construction back two months, so we will be using the temporary space all year instead of just the first semester.

I'm actually okay with that. Part of me getting reassigned to a different program was that both programs budgeted space for me, so instead of having a shared classroom like almost everyone else, my potential officemate and I are each going to have our own rooms.

I cannot even begin to tell you how productive this is going to make me.

Over the past 10 years or so I've learned a lot about myself. One of the things I've learned is that my procrastination is usually a play for solitude. I need to be left alone and be reasonably certain I will not be interrupted. When I worked in city government, I would spend the morning trying to look busy and then I would do all my work when my officemate was at lunch. When I worked later afternoons in Kansas, I would get everything done from 5 to 7 when I had the office to myself. Already this week I've been much more inclined to do work than check social media or read the news. I'm going to get work done this year, and that's awesome.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"What Does Freedom Mean to Me?"

Yesterday I was in some terrible training meeting. (Is there another kind?) We were formed into small groups and then asked to answer questions like, "What makes an effective teacher?" I said something to our group and then, in the silence that followed while we wrote it down, we heard a woman in the neighboring group repeat my idea to her own group.

One of my fellow group members leaned in and said, "Guys, they're cheating off us."

I said, "We should loudly say untrue things to throw them off."

My other group member leaned back out and said loudly, "You can never have enough alcohol in your desk."

PS: A different part of the meeting was about how serious plagiarism is.

Post title from Bart Simpson's homework in the episode where they have to steal the lemon tree back from Shelbyville.

School Security

Last year I had a classroom and a separate cubicle in a shared office. The students had access to the classroom during required evening study from 7 to 9 every night, during which time they were unsupervised. This was how every classroom smartboard had malware and viruses.

Last year I had students go through my things during periods when they knew I would not be at my desk. My Chinese colleagues working at neighboring desks watched it happen and told me about it when I returned, but made no effort to stop it. In fact, they told me that it was my fault for not locking up everything at my desk before walking away from it. (Note: they do not do that themselves.)

This year we are in temporary space while our building gets remodeled. Now my desk is in my classroom. This means that students will be able to go through my things during evening study.

I have a rolling filing cabinet with a lock, but that lock has been broken since before I began working here. I have a bookshelf with a locking door, but no one knows where the keys are. The locks of these items are the type that can stop someone opening them swiftly, but they will be no challenge for students with two hours of unsupervised time with them.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Pay Cuts of Tomorrow, in the News Today

Here's an article that says some people expect me to get a 25% pay cut by the end of my contract.

I feel like the five most-important years of my life were from the spring of 1996 to the spring of 2001. During that period of time, I didn't do very much. The period begins with me finishing high school, and it ends with me getting married. In between I served a mission, attended college for a while, failed out, and got engaged. Once I was married, I tried to make up for the lost time, but the damage was done. Everything is ruined now, and there's no catching back up.

What sucks about this is that I didn't feel at the time that I was doing anything especially dangerous. Yeah, I was going sort of leisurely about stuff, but when you're young you have time to do things like that, right? It seems like if I was ruining my life as badly as it turns out I was, I should have had feelings of foreboding and misgiving and whatnot.

If I had graduated university in the spring of 2001, I wouldn't be about to slide from the Chinese middle class to the Chinese lower class. Hell, I wouldn't be the Chinese anything class, because I wouldn't have failed out of the American lower class like I have.

I have more to say on this issue, but none of it is of interest to anyone else. Suffice it to say, I wish I had the years 1996 to 2001 to do over again.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Clean-Up on Aisle 五

The easiest way to turn this video involved placing the giant watermark on it. Oh well. I just wanted to show you the grocery store zamboni that was cleaning up the dairy aisle.

Bonus crap: I took Jerome Jerome the Metronome to get a haircut on Saturday. We went to a new place because the last place became less impressive with each visit. I had to come home from my most-recent haircut and give myself another haircut. So we walked along a section of our street with four salons. Three were busy, and one was empty. I said to him, "That could be a sign that the locals know this place is crap." But we're dudes; what do we care what our hair looks like? So we went inside. The lady wanted to start his haircut off with a wash. Since the whole thing was going to cost three dollars, I said, "Why not?"

I sent this picture to my wife. She said he looks nervous. If he was just a few years older, he would have loved having some hot chick massaging his head for him.

Back at Work

I'm back at work today. Sort of. I'm using my temporary office without any students or colleagues around, and it's quite nice. It won't stay this way once we're all shoehorned into this too-small space, but I'm beginning to take a wait-and-see approach to things here in China, as in, "Wait a few weeks and see if the system hasn't collapsed yet." If the yuan tanks and the Chicoms impose capital controls, none of the staff can afford to be here anymore. Have you ever heard that old wives' tale about the Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times"?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Church Grammar

Our branch was cancelled for today because of draconian restrictions on public movement. (Just our branch; the other branches weren't inside the closure area.) So my home worship includes this church-related blog post.

How many times do you have to read this sentence to understand it?

By combining the resources of many people, banks, brokers, and other financiers provide capital for economic development. [Lucas and Woodworth, Working Toward Zion, p. 123]

It seems to me that the natural reading is that people, banks, brokers, and other financiers constitute a compound object of the preposition "of." Not until the 13th word of the sentence is there any indication that my reading is errant. The verb "provide" shows up where I am expecting the subject of the sentence.

The authors could have solved this with wording such as "Combining the resources of many people allows banks, brokers, and other financiers to provide capital for economic development." No ambiguity there.

Second item of ambiguity.

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

What are we willing to do and what are we actually doing? I read this thus: we are witnessing that we are willing to take upon us Christ's name, that we are willing to always remember Him, and that we are willing to keep His commandments. I think the "to" in "to take" also applies to "always" and "keep," which means the "willing" does, as well. Otherwise we are witnessing that we are willing to take upon us His name, that we always remember Him, and that we keep His commandments. That reading is troublesome to me because none of us keeps His commandments with complete certainty. If that's what we're witnessing when we partake of the sacrament, we are liars, and if that's what it takes to have His spirit to be with us, none of us has it.

This came up in a Sunday School lesson I taught three weeks ago. The "we can obey our way to heaven" crowd disagreed with my reading. I grant that the words don't grammatically require my reading to be true, but I think theology does.

The Cremains of the Day

My wife and I are trying to figure out what we should do with our bodies if one of us dies in China. I contacted an international mortuary shipping company for an initial estimate. It turns out we can expect to spend over $10,000 to send a body from Beijing to Los Angeles, and over $6,000 to send cremation remains.

Say what?!

If she just Weekend-at-Bernie's it with me, I can fly round trip for under $700. (I wouldn't use the return ticket.) Why is it nearly 10 times as expensive when I'm not using a seat?

Of course I know the answer: government. There are fees and regulations and licenses and whatnot. I'm sure I can't just carry cremains in a carry-on because that's exactly what the terrorists would do!!!!eleventy!!!!

I hate being a slave to government. Especially to one that says I'm free.

Friday, August 21, 2015

I Get It: I'm Hairy

This week we ran out of anti-itch cream. My wife and I went to the drugstore. We couldn't find it right away, so I decided to ask a clerk. I pantomimed scratching an imaginary itch on my forearm. The clerk had an expression that conveyed, "I know exactly what you mean." She then led me to the razors.

Listen up, Asians: I'm actually not that hairy, as white guys go. I know you look at me and think I'm Robin Williams, but I'm just a guy with some body hair. Settle down. It's not as bad as my friend Erik, who spent his time living in Korea being called "The Monkey" in the showers at the gym.

To get my point across, I had to pantomime scratching a non-hairy part of my body. It took me a moment to think of one. I eventually settled on the palm of my hand. Everywhere else has hair. I guess you can start calling me The Monkey.

Recent China Pictures

This kid's outfit might be hard to see, but he looked just like the kid dancer at the beginning of the "Gangnam Style" video.

I got out of the habit of taking the kids out on Saturdays because we didn't really know where to go when we got here. Well, I've started it back up. This was Crazy Jane out for brunch at the slowest restaurant EVER. No matter how few patrons are in the place, how many employees are working, or how little food you order, your items come to you one every 15 minutes. Here she is, enjoying her massive waffle, 50 minutes after we ordered in an empty restaurant with three visible employees. Ironically, the place is called Time Difference Cafe, but we decided it should be called Time Indifference Cafe. (Yes, I know I sound like a regular. It's because the food is pretty good. Just never go there if you have any other plans that weekend.)

I went out with my wife and Crazy Jane for Crazy Jane's birthday breakfast. Then, as I was walking to work, I saw this guy coming up the alley. I had to make it look like I was just texting or something as I walked by. Usually my pictures like that end up terrible, but this one is PERFECT! Notice how his face is out of the frame, but his underwear-and-dress-shoes outfit is crystal clear? I texted it to my wife immediately.

He ain't heavy; he's my brother!

At the grocery store, we saw these. My wife wanted a picture. She posted it on Facebook and got a bunch of unexpected comments. I think the product name, FreeGo, make us think they were marketing it to woman who just wanted to piss themselves sometimes. My wife's Facebook friends, though, said they'd bought some when they had a baby because they weren't sure if Chinese hospitals send you home with those weird fishnet panties recently-unpregnated ladies get to wear, and they'd heard of ladies bringing these on vacation or hiking so they don't have to cart around dirty laundry. We're still not sure they aren't shameful, though.

My wife wanted a new haircut, and I went with her because her salon is actually located in Workers Stadium. I figured there'd be some sort of Beijing Guoan team store nearby. (There's not. Because China.) Instead I got to sit in a salon and read the Chinese edition of Marie Claire (all the article titles were in English and the article bodies were in Mandarin). This is the final product.

A giant outdoor TV screen stricken by the Blue Screen of Death.

Riding home from my wife's haircut, two different shirts caught our attention on the subway. First, here's a map that moves Greenland south and labels it "Paris." Who knows why. Just because.

Second, this teenage girl had a picture with a random collection of letters on it, but organized into words like they meant something. It might be hard to read, but what is not covered by her sweater reads, "...tay ha bcen to be abi...ey tiur hcomings and...." My wife wanted a picture of this, but I was a little hesitant. I'm sort of past the age where it's okay for me to be taking cellphone pictures of teenagers' breasts on the subway. Now when I do it, I'm pretty sure I'm breaking a law. But my wife insisted, so I tried to be sly about it. But there's no real sly way of taking a picture of someone's rack. Plus, the girl totally saw my screen reflected in the car window behind me. We then tried to cover it up by making it look like I was just taking a bunch of random pictures to figure out what my camera settings did. I don't think she bought it.

Just down the block from us is this restaurant where they prepare all the day's vegetables directly on the sidewalk. My wife wanted a picture of it, but since she was operating the camera this time, she took it from far away while the workers' backs were turned. When I'm the photographer, it's totally okay for me to have to be pervy, but when she's the photographer, proper decorum is observed.

Notice how she tried to make this one look like she was taking a selfie? Why couldn't I do that with the girl on the train?

The Screamapilar had his third birthday and has graduated to a new blog nickname: Squidgems. We were screwing around one evening and I asked him if we should have named him Squidgems and he thought it was a hilarious name. Unlike his brother Jerome who hates all nicknames (and so has accumulated many of them), Squidgems has adopted the name gladly and likes to call himself by it. So here we are walking to get him a doughnut on the morning of his birthday, stopping to visit the bird that lives in a cage outside our local hair salon.

Squidgems with his birthday doughnut.

Squidgems played with a friend's toy kitchen recently and loved it. This made his siblings want to give him a toy kitchen for his birthday. However, comma, I hate giant furniture-size toys. My wife found a smallish one online and my personal assistant, Vicky, ordered it for us. When he opened it, Squidgems immediately opened a restaurant, which everyone in the family is required to visit constantly. Hurray.

Buy a ton of canola oil and get...a little bit more canola oil!

What's Wrong With China

A few weeks ago, Wuhan, China concurrently hosted the men's and women's versions of the East Asian Cup, a four-team soccer competition. I watched what was essentially the third-place game of the women's tournament, between Japan and China. I said to the kids, "Last month Japan was World Cup runner-up and China didn't get out of the group stage, so Japan should win this game easily." But they didn't win the game easily; for nearly 90 minutes, the game was scoreless, thanks in large measure to the Chinese goalkeeper, Wang Fei.

Who is Wang Fei? She is sort of like Hope Solo, just without the craziness. Anyway, she came up with a number of big saves throughout the game. Japan's superior technical ability, however, won out, and they scored their first goal in the 88th minute.

And here's where China's problems were on display. The team tried hard and Wang had a great game (as seen here). The goal was not a mistake of hers, and although she had been injured a few minutes previously, she had played on. Having put together no offensive threat in the entire game, China was going to lose. But China used it's final substitution of the game to replace Wang with just minutes remaining.

That seemed bush league to me. That seemed like a coach trying to hang the blame on arguably his best player. The team had failed and the team's leader was in a position to assign blame to a subordinate, who was in no position to refuse it. And that is China's problem in microcosm.

I remember a character in the movie Rising Sun talking about how Japan is superior to the U.S. because when something goes wrong in Japan they focus on a correction while in the U.S., they focus on the blame. China is only blame. Right now the economy is failing and everyone responsible is busy finding somebody else to blame. It's short sellers! It's foreign reporters! It's East Turkestan terrorists! It's everyone but the corrupt leaders, the shadow banking system they allow to flourish, and the mountain of government debt they've accumulated through malinvestment. Of course it's not them.

Wang Fei had a great game, and it pissed me off to see her singled out for shame like that. Japan's second goal, scored moments after the substitution, was much more goalkeeper error than the first, as the substitute didn't commit to anything but kind of danced around trying to look busy. Chinese leaders use their positions of superiority to save face for themselves by rolling it off to subordinates. It shows up at my job, in the news, and when I watch the women's national team.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Chinese Learning Resources

We've dabbled in a variety of Mandarin Chinese learning methods, partly to see which we liked best, partly to see which was cheapest, and partly to find the method that made learning Chinese completely effortless. Here are some notes on the various resources. I don't suspect any of you care, but it's a way for me to keep track of these things.

  • Learn in Your Car Chinese: These CDs are designed to be listened to while driving. They seem to focus on things a traveler would need to know, like asking directions to the train station and the hotel. My biggest complaint isn't something wrong with this series, but something wrong with CD-based language learning itself: it's really hard to understand what they're saying without seeing it written. The CDs come with a transcript of what's being said, but of course you can't look things up while you're driving. My recommendation would be to not use a CD-only approach until you have a basic familiarity with the nuances of the spoken language.
  • Pimsleur Mandarin: These are also CDs, so the problem is the same as with car CDs. These CDs are geared more towards conversational ability, so there's less traveler-specific material. Also, they are repetitive to help with retention. These are what I use most often because it best fits my schedule: I load a few lessons on my phone and listen on the way to work and back. Our kids use these at home, with varying success. One of our sons absolutely hates these lessons with a furious intensity. He would rather to ANYTHING than listen to a Pimsleur lesson. Another of our sons, though, likes to go through a lesson during his afternoon poop.
  • Pleco: This dictionary app is amazing. I heard someone say he bought it for $100, but I just use the free version with an $10 add-on that allows for optical character recognition. Usually my first time through a Pimsleur lesson, I have Pleco open to look up everything I'm hearing.
  • Mango: This app is really useful and free if your local library subscribes to their service. It shows characters, but when you tap a character, the pinyin is displayed. In an attempt to be universally helpful, it will teach you to say things you might not care about, such as "I can speak a little Russian." One issue I've had: my school-issued iPad has some Chicom-created Internet-connectivity problems sometimes. Every few uses, Mango makes you re-verify your library credentials, so sometimes I can't use the app when I can't connect to the Internet. But generally this is pretty good, and our son who hates Pimsleur likes to do his Chinese lessons with Mango.
  • Memrise: This is much like Mango, but instead of one lesson set, there are several. Mango teaches phrases and work order, but the Memrise lessons I do are more vocabulary. One of my lesson sets is on most-common verbs and another is on the first 500 characters to learn. Memrise is much more character-intensive, which some people dislike because they've decided to only deal with pinyin and speaking.
  • ChineseSkill: I just got this app last week and haven't used it very much. It seems like it deals with conversation instead of just travel phrases, it uses pinyin and characters, it's repetitive for retention purposes, and it allows you to test out of lessons to jump ahead. I mainly got it because of the adorable panda character, which I wanted to show to my daughter.
  • Train Chinese: This app has some limited functionality in the free version, and the ability to add a lot more items with a subscription. I liked the idea that, with a subscription, I could create my own vocabulary lists I'm working on, and use them in the related app that tests you on character writing (imaginatively called Chinese Writer). I was going to get a subscription for this because Chinese Writer teaches you correct stroke order. However, I'm poor, and lazy, and until I actually need to learn to write characters, I'm not going to spend money on this.
  • Discovering Chinese: A friend recently recommended this to us. It seems like an app version of a high school language course. There are four courses. The first lesson of each course is free as a sample, and then the courses are around $35 each, I think. When everything else is free, $35 sounds like a lot, but based on my time looking at the free lesson, it seems pretty impressive. It teaches speaking, reading and writing pinyin, and reading and writing characters. Each lesson involves a large variety of activities. I was surprised how many different things there were to do: dialogs to listen to, vocabulary to learn, questions to answer, cultural notes, et cetera. I don't know if there are textbooks to accompany this, but it seems so much like a school language class that I'd bet there are. I could see us getting this course when our kids were slightly older, maybe. We've got an 8th-grader, a 6th-grader, and a 3rd-grader, and this seems sort of like a high school language course.
  • Transparent Language: This is quite expensive, so I have not looked into it at all, but there's a free software called Byki that I've used a little. The inconvenience of installing a program on my computer wasn't overwhelmed by functionality or material or anything, so I have barely used it.
  • BBC Languages: With so many other things I've been using, I have not really spent any time with this one at all. But it exists, here, and it's free.
  • Write in Chinese: This website teaches simplified character stroke order.
  • Various other resources: When we very first accepted this job, we watched some videos on YouTube that did a good job explaining tones, like this one. I've done Coffee Break Spanish in the past and I enjoyed that (although I didn't become a premium member due to poverty issues, I wanted to become one), and Radio Lingua has a One Minute Mandarin course, but I haven't listened to it at all.

So there you have it. I think my ideal learning setup for me would be Pimsleur recordings while looking things up on Pleco, Memrise for vocabulary building, and Train Chinese's Writer app for character stroke order. My ideal learning setup for my kids would be Discovering Chinese with something like Mango or ChineseSkill for them to make a game of reviewing.

EDIT (Sep. 2017): has a nice dictionary.

Monday, August 17, 2015

My Retirement Plans Are Set

MY WIFE: I wish we could just cuddle all day.

A RANDOM STRANGER: Naked cuddling?

MW [with a look of grave misgiving]: Sometimes.

ARS: Me, too.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Vacation Blog

Have you noticed that I don't post on weekends much? Most people aren't as active online during their personal time, indicating that the Internet is mainly a large "look busy" activity at work and school. Well, I'm no different. Look at my monthly totals; times off school have fewer posts.

This summer I have been off work, but I have been working on my dissertation proposal, so I still had motivation to write blog posts. Now that I've advanced to candidacy, though, I've been on a mini-vacation for the past two weeks, so I've barely even thought about my blog.

The good news for my blog readers (or maybe it's bad news--there's no reason to assume my readers want more content) is that I've got to start working again soon. Within a few weeks, there'll be a torrent of new material here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Feminist Critique

A blog I follow, Overthinking It, recently had a post criticizing the new movie Trainwreck. The post's writer, Molly Brenner, doesn't like that Amy Schumer's character's growth involves ending her slutty ways. In her criticism, we see that modern feminism has just become militant licentiousness.

Brenner doesn't like that Amy evidently includes her casual sex in the character traits that must be fixed for her to stop being "broken." Brenner says this takes the film from "sex-positive to slut-shaming." She wishes Trainwreck did "not require the protagonist tone down her sexuality in order to end up happy."

Let's assume that Schumer is some mix of artist and businesswoman. The film she wrote is either trying to convey a message she feels helps inform the human condition (the artist part of her) or it is trying to get butts in theater seats (the businesswoman part of her). I don't know the ratio of these aspects of Schumer's soul--it could be 1:1 or it could be 2:0 in either direction. My point is that it doesn't matter, because whatever the ratio, it is bad news for Brenner's wistful sex-positivism.

Either Schumer has the Amy character* give up casual sex to help heal her psyche because Schumer feels this is a true component of psychological healing (Schumer the artist) or because Schumer thinks a larger audience will find the movie more enjoyable this way (Schumer the businesswoman). And if it's true that a larger audience agrees that casual sex is a fun but immature practice, could it be because many of them have found this true in their own lives?

If Brenner is right, if casual sex is only positives and never a negative, then the movie should fail when audience members stay away from its harsh portrayal of outdated sexual mores. Amy Schumer, evidently, is a prude**, or at least she plays one on the big screen for monetary considerations. Brenner can't have either be true, but what other explanation is there for the plot of Trainwreck?

Ultimately, the problem is modern feminism. It tells girls to slut it up and when they find themselves unhappy, modern feminism tells them to just slut harder. "Your problem is that you didn't slut enough!" This is why the "pro-choice" crowd (or, as it's more-truthfully known, the "pro-baby-murder" crowd) can't possibly sanction the separation of Planned Parenthood's socially-acceptable practices from their infant-dismemberment practices. Because nothing can be more important than "sex now, sex tomorrow, sex forever." When practice leads most people to believe that at least some rules governing sex are warranted, modern feminism has to fight against this reality. Their wonderful theory is so dear that it must be protected from heartless reality and the realists who aren't toeing the party line on sex-positivism.

* = Why do comedians play roles named after themselves so much? And why do they do it with a fake last name? I remember finding it stupid as a child when I watched Gimme a Break! and age hasn't changed my opinion. "See, Ray Romano is a comedian/actor, but Ray Barone is a humorous Everyman!" Are comedians too stupid to respond to character names that aren't their own, like when the Federal Witness Protection Program tries to change Homer Simpson's name to Homer Thompson? One of the best aspects of Seinfeld was that Jerry Seinfeld played Jerry Seinfeld, not Jerry Mouskowitz.

** = My Straussian reading of Inside Amy Schumer is that she's lampooning (huh-huh, I said "poon") the modern liberal-arts sorority sister who embraced modern feminism's sexual revolution and doesn't understand why it leaves her unfulfilled and disrespected.

"An Old Gold Chevy and a Place of My Own"

This morning I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to our kids. Earlier in the book Hermione said they were in the Forest of Dean, a spot she knew from camping with her parents. Jerome said, "I'm surprised she ever did anything with her parents," because our kids are unsettled by the way that Hermione attends a boarding school and then spends most of her holidays with the Weasleys. Basically, Hermione moved out of the house at age 11.

I said, "She spent her first 11 years with her parents. And then she moved out and never saw them again. Just like [Jerome]. Ooops, spoiler alert." Jerome didn't look like he found that particularly funny.

PS: A post title quoting lyrics from Crocodile Rock?! This blog has officially jumped the shark.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Sino-Austrian Business Cycle

Back when the Chinese government couldn't spend money fast enough (meaning, at the latest, earlier this week), a new subway line was planned to go right up our street. Then the absolutely insane spending plans died (except for the ones for the Winter Olympics--those are still around) and the subway line was going to be a monorail line. Then the economy got softer still and the Redefales (remember, Red Federales; it's a thing now) decided not to needlessly antagonize the citizenry (unless you're a dancing granny), so they cancelled the monorail line that would have blocked out the sun for the first three stories of every building and went back to a subway line, now much further in the future.

Meanwhile, developers who moved on the initial declaration of a subway line now have really nice, completely empty malls on our street. Last week one of the malls hung the largest banner ad I've ever seen (not counting some of those GeoCities pages) trying to attract tenants. The fact that you can see this mall from my classroom was really helpful when I was teaching Hayek's concept of malinvestment.

But today I happened to see that the other empty mall is getting ready for a new tenant: WuMart. What is WuMart? It's where you go in China when Walmart is too upscale for you.

Here's what WuMart has going for it in my family's perspective: it's not Chaoshifa, our local grocery store that does not have much of what we want, and it's closer than Chaoshifa, too. Here's what it has going against it: WuMart owns 25% of Chaoshifa, so winning our business is somewhat cannibalistic, and the walk to WuMart will require us to walk past the garbage substation.

What's a garbage substation? Well, this is how trash collection works here. A dude with a three-wheel bicycle and a metal bin on the back comes along and picks through the garbage, then takes it to this building on our block. There it is compacted and loaded onto a small garbage truck to take who-knows-where. The garbage substation is the second-smelliest thing I've ever smelt in my life (Number 1 was a guy's house in Humbird, Wisconsin). The stink is the kind that not even mouth breathing can overcome; you just end up tasting the garbage.

My son was excited to live on a monorail line, so he's pretty upset about the malinvestment problem. I was excited to live across the street from a Uniqlo and a Paris Baguette, so I'm pretty upset about it, too. But at least I should still have my teaching visual when I get to Hayek's malinvestment theory.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Reading Update

It was either this or write about some of the groups whose status I wish to lower, and I don't really want to think about them today; why make myself upset? (Remember my first rule of life: if something is causing you stress, stop doing it.)

So instead I'll give you an update on my reading. Remember when I said I was reading 10 books and it was out of control? Well, it was so out of control that I had forgotten a book I was reading: Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. But since that was my morning devotional reading, when I finished it I replaced it with the next in the series.

  1. The Theory of Moral Sentiments, by Adam Smith - 12%
  2. Working Toward Zion, by James W. Lucas and Warner P. Woodworth - 31%
  3. Knowledge and Coordination, by Daniel B. Klein - 55%
  4. The Theory of the Leisure Class, by Thorstein Veblen - 56%
  5. The Eleven Comedies, Vol. 1, by Aristophanes - FINISHED 8/1/15
  6. The Mindfulness Solution, by Ronald D. Siegel - 55%
  7. An Incomplete Revenge, by Jacqueline Winspear - FINISHED 8/5/15
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling - 48%
  9. The Road to Wigan Pier, by George Orwell - 48%
  10. Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis - 0%
  11. Couple Skills, by Matthew McKay, Patrick Fanning, and Kim Paleg - 0%
  12. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - FINISHED 7/26/15
  13. Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - 13%

I swear, I have this under control. I'm going to finish the Siegel, Klein, and Veblen books this week, at which time I will mindfully solve the coordinating knowledge of the leisure class. Or something.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Lowering Group Status

Tyler Cowen wrote a blog post about the response he'd get if he just listed the groups whose status he thought should rise or fall. Arnold Kling wrote a blog post about the response if bloggers were explicit about which groups' statuses they sought to change. Kling says,

It would be an interesting exercise in honesty for everyone who uses social media for political discussions to say, “My main purpose is to lower the status of the following three groups. . .”
So what would my answer be?

I want to lower the status of anti-Mormons, of annihilists, and of the arrogant rich. By "anti-Mormons" I don't mean non-Mormons, I mean people who refuse to accept my self-declared Christianity. By "annihilists" I mean anyone who supports policies and practices that increase the chances of human annihilation, which would include abortionists, statists, atheists (because all atheists are militant atheists), and purveyors of the popular culture. By "the arrogant rich" I mean those who view their wealth as their reward to be spent creating separation from the masses instead of as their burden to spend responsibly for the benefit of their fellow men.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Sort-Of A Doctoral Candidate

I have turned in my form that has to go through some bureaucratic process so I can be adjudged to be a doctoral candidate. I will receive an e-mail notice once the bureaucracy has done its job, and at that point I will be A.B.D.