in which Mr Cox is a stodgy old man

When will publishers once again have the courage to publish footnotes instead of endnotes? At least Eric Asphaug’s When the Earth had Two Moons (Custom House, 2019) 📚 has proper superscript notations instead of vague page references in the notes. Anyway, with all this back-and-forth I’m still only on page 5. Good book, so far, and good notes; and, no, electronic media would not help.

Full Faith and Trust—in Nixon?

Today’s much more relaxing book, though one might not have thought so, is Tom Wicker’s biography of Richard Nixon, One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream (1991) 📚, which has been waiting on my shelf since I was at Fordham. Judging by the bookmark inside I gave it a go poolside in 1996, leaving off just before reading about the 1952 Checkers speech. That speech was extraordinary, if only because it began an expectation of uncommon candor regarding the finances of presidential candidates.

Mr. Sparkman and Mr. Stevenson should come before the American people, as I have, and make a complete financial statement as to their financial history, and if they don’t it will be an admission that they have something to hide. And I think you will agree with me — because, folks, remember, a man that’s to be President of the United States, a man that’s to be Vice President of the United States, must have the confidence of all the people.

How is it that the confidence of all the people is too much to expect these days?

‪Took a break from reading Masha Gessen’s The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012) 📚 to read a bit of Twitter. That was a poor choice for relaxation. Maybe I should make cookies🍪

A small person, perhaps a year or two old, toddled by my yard and carefully stooped to pick a beautiful wildflower. Then she and her daddy walked on, as she smelled the sweet dandelion.

Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?

I’m presently dividing my time between walking, reading John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (1958) 📚, and watching Yes, Minister (1980-1984), in lieu of contemplating the latest shenanigans or burning my phone’s battery on Twitter. The Affluent Society seemed like a reasonable follow-up to Manu Saadia’s excellently optimistic Trekonomics (2016) 📚. I’m enjoying it. Oddly enough the language is not that far off from some of the dialogue in Yes, Minister; it’s almost like there was a certain consistency of schooling or something.

But the questions I’d like answered, in all seriousness and honesty, in plain English, now, today, are “Why not?” Why can’t we have nice things? Why can’t we, in the immortal words of Rodney King, all just get along?

O Ye of Little Faith

You may have heard this story.

Once there was a devout man who was certain in his faith. All who knew him remarked on his righteousness, for he was constantly thanking God for His great wisdom in making all that was, good or bad.

One day on the evening news this man heard that a terrible storm was coming and that all should evacuate to high ground. “I’ll stay right here,” he said to himself. “The Lord will save me.”

It began to rain.

It rained so much that the creek rose out of its bed, and waves lapped at the foundation of his house. A neighbor paddled by in his canoe and offered to take the righteous man to high ground. “No, thank you. Don’t worry about me. God will save me.”

Still it rained, the waters rose, and the man took refuge on his roof. A helicopter hovered overhead, and a National Guardsman swinging from a rope ladder shouted for him to climb up. “No, thank you. Go; help someone else in need. God will save me.”

Still it rained. And the righteous man drowned.

The man came before God, and asked, “Lord, I’ve been a righteous man all my life. I’ve kept all your commandments. I know in my heart that you are a loving and kind god; I was so sure you would save me. Why did you let me drown?”

And God answered, “I sent the evening news. I sent your neighbor in his canoe. And I sent the National Guard with a helicopter. What more did you need?”

Tips for an Advanced Lifestyle; or, Coping with Working from Home

  • Wake up you sleepyhead
  • Put on some clothes
  • Shake up your bed
  • Oh, you pretty things, brush your teeth
  • Bathe
  • Make, eat, and clean up from breakfast
  • Lift weights
  • Go for a walk
  • Do some work
  • No! Don’t check e-mail yet! That’s almost as bad as reading the Internet. Wait until you get something done first.
  • Eat lunch
  • Post a picture on Sad Desk Lunch
  • Do more work
  • Turn off the computer at the end of the day

The author has been working from home since 2600 baud modems were a thing, but officially only since 2006. The biggest handicap is lack of routine. The second is lack of people. The greatest benefit is flexibility. The greatest hazard is also flexibility. Establish boundaries for yourself and keep them.

Yes, that means a schedule. And pants.

Working from home, often with indefinite externally-imposed demands, will reveal weaknesses in your time management skills. Until the option presents itself, we are not aware of how much someone else’s clock shapes our day. Consider the difference between children during the school year and vacation. Similarly, athletes, musicians, and others may be accustomed to working with a very limited time budget, but what happens when the infinity of 24 hours presents itself? Initially one may have grand plans for the hour(s) of reclaimed time, but those disappear in a haze. Find tricks to divide personal time from that devoted to your work, and work time from that devoted to care for everything else. Some people use pants, others a change of space, and still others a bell.

It will impose, forcefully, on time you once thought was yours: lunch. Meetings will be scheduled to interrupt breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Set limits early. If you are planning to eat with your family, do so. If you formerly took breaks to chat over coffee, continue. Get away from the desk.

It will remove any exercise you may have been getting during your commute. In my case before I began working from home my commute had changed from walking a mile to the train plus several miles to and from the office each day, to a few feet of walking to my car then to my desk. After I began working from home even that little bit of exercise was reduced to the distance from my bed to my couch. Get up and move.

It will beg you to keep going. Don’t.

Stop. Tomorrow is another day.


Update: Consider this a reminder that working away from the home is an invention of the modern, industrial era. Society changes over time.

A Thousand Points of Light

Many things have been cancelled because of the coronavirus. Love is not one of them.

Faith in the time of Coronavirus“,
James Martin, S. J., America, March 13, 2020

Our moment of crisis is decades in the making, the endgame of decades of embracing the idea that we are not interconnected, that it is each man and woman for themselves.

Coronavirus is an indictment of our way of life,”
Helaine Olen, The Washington Post, March 13, 2020

When this plague has passed, what will our neighbors remember of us? Will they remember that the Christians took immediate, decisive action to protect the vulnerable, even at great personal and organizational cost?

Love in the Time of Coronavirus,”
Andy Crouch, Praxis Journal, March 12, 2020

The challenge ahead is not to rebuild—it’s to build. We can’t restore something that never quite was. We don’t even know what a caring society—the beloved community—might really look like. We’ll have to imagine. So—if your classes are cancelled or your big game is kaput or the office is half-empty, if you don’t know how to wonk or organize, if you’re not a nurse or a public health expert or a social worker, if you’re feeling isolated—well, then, get busy. More time to start the work ahead: imagining the caring society that must come next. This is no thought exercise, this is action, and we can get going now if we haven’t—by determination or due to more visible necessity—started already.

All In,”
Jeff Sharlet, Bookforum, March 13, 2020

fuck coronavirus

who has a bill coming up that they’re not sure they’re gonna be able to pay

send me your bill and your Venmo

Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano), March 13, 2020