Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Last Hurrah

I knew I was in Massachusetts when I visited a restaurant with a JFK room. We ate there when we were still looking for houses, I think, and still brand new to the place. (You wouldn't find a Kennedy room in the godless badlands of Connecticut.) Hey, can we sit in that roo...umm? Every wall was covered with Kennedy kitsch: commemorative plates, oil portraits, framed photographs. Positively creepy, like dinner in a church with all the saints watching you eat from the stained glass. I'm the wrong age to have idolized John Kennedy. His sudden loss, and Bobby's, shocked my parents' generation. As presidencies go, I'll just say there are better and worse interpretations, and I'm an amply rewarded pessimist when it comes to politics. As far as nobility goes, I think we could have asked for better camera fodder in the age of snapshots and video footage, but I realize I'm in the minority about that one.

One of things to go right in the American experiment was the abolition of royalty, and this whole Camelot thing really bugs me. Pushing privilege through generations may be another inevitable pimple on the pizza-face of governance, but I refuse to celebrate it. Although if there were titled aristocracy here, I admit I could see the Kennedy family as a good Yankee version. Count old Joe Kennedy as the American product of balls, charisma, amoral investment strategy, and political networking, raising himself to the level of raucous nouveau noblesse, inventing tradition on the fly, but meaning, without question, to make it stick in the family through his heirs. What the family did with the power, once established, was as interesting as these things always are.

Ted Kennedy was a senator for longer than I have been alive. Young, irresponsible Kennedy was well before my time. Memories of a failed presidential contender are also vague. The Ted Kennedy I "knew" had the physique of a life-long drinker (who'd have guessed cancer would do him in?), spoke large, seemed sincerely and indiscriminately genial, and supported government programs without apologizing to conservatives, which is impressive for his time. Leave the political eulogy for the people who actually love this stuff.

For his efforts to help out the people, a sense of noblesse oblige is often thrown around, but while it gets to the point, it doesn't feel like the right term. Ted's grandfather was a Boston machine politician, and the give-back tradition is as much a system of an elaborate patronage, a dynamic, connected, interaction with the community, than it is a duty of the aristocracy. A political machine used to move, power had to be bought, and the system had to be maintained--city machines were run by bosses, not lords. Ted Kennedy's unapologetic caring for the little guys as he saw them, his garrulousness, his chumminess and comfortable movement within the bureaucratic sphere, seems like a throwback to the old urban versions. Ted strikes me as the Frank Skeffington of a modern age, now connected to a bigger web, better educated, evolved past the city, and incorporating contemporary electoral mechanisms and national avenues of power, but still able to gladhand every Joe on the street.

Like in Edwin O'Connor's novel, it feels like some era is passing with Ted Kennedy's death. I'd be hard pressed to tell you what era it is though. Politicians operating on some straightforward model of public morality? Political family legacies? Personable bureaucrats? These don't really seem to have left us. You can never quite shake out the last hurrah.

Monday, August 24, 2009

On the Median

April 9. I find many unusual things along the edge of the grass, many of the clothes I wear, for instance, and food sometimes, and other useful items. Today may have revealed the best find yet, or at least the best thing since I picked up my watch that tells me the days. It's a rigid folder with a lot of happy colors and animals on it, and inside there are three blue pads of paper bound with little spirals of wire, and several writing tools in a clear pouch. I am writing with it now.

I don't know if I will keep the folder, but I like pad and the pouch, and I have often thought I should keep more solid memories than the little marks I make on my tree to note the days.

April 10. One thing I can describe is my home. It is a small lean-to, packed tight with pine boughs, which keep me dry even when it rains hard. I can hardly see it even when I am looking right at it. At the very front opening, there are a few stones where I sometimes have a fire.

This lean-to is nested in a small stand of trees. This in turn is tucked into a little fold of hill, a narrow ridge on either side of me, as if I am in the center of a large "M". At the feet of the M, of course, are those long, black boundaries that define my space. My trees rise almost to the top of the ridge, it is one of many bunches of them. Swathes of grass weave in between, as if the little clusters of oaks and hickories and maples are bubbles in a green stream. There are stretches of bushes and scrub too, and in the summer, blue flowers pop up in the grass. My bubble has several nut trees, and it is cool (and sometimes a little muddy) at the lowest point inside. On the east side, there is a sandy bridge, a turnaround maybe, for the travelers on the blacktop, but a white plaque on a metal pole indicates that this use is forbidden.

April 11. When I walk straight west from my home, the peaks of the ridges rise for a few dozen paces, and the middle valley spreads out. There is a little white molded streambed that fills up when it rains, and empties into a pond in there that is not large, and not deep, but it teems with frogs and turtles. The water is very still on it today, and the sun is very bright and high in the sky, and I spent a few minutes looking at myself just now. My eyes appear very deep and dark against my wide face. My hair and my beard are the color of bark. I think they used to be blacker.

April 14. Did not leave my lean-to today. Was not hungry, and it feels like it will rain.

May 5. A lucky find this morning: a deer, nearly whole, resting a few short steps from the shoulder. It must have happened in the night, but nothing woke me up. The poor creature's hips were shattered, but he was otherwise intact. I wonder how long he managed to survive after he was hit.

As I sit here, I can smell the meat roasting on my small fire, and it is nearly too tempting to wait. Up near the top of the hill, where the breeze comes, many strips are hanging from my makeshift drying rack (just some sticks really, that I stripped bare of their bark), still glistening a little in the sun, and the deer's hide is spread out over a rock, also drying, close by. I will boil the heart and kidneys tomorrow, and I may have some meat to smoke too, but I will have to move up the hill for that as well, if I don't want water to seep into the hole, and I do not know if I want a fire that high up.

I am worried that so much meat will draw rats or crows, but I will camp near there for a few weeks, and maybe I can catch some of them if it does.

June 13. I woke up panicked this morning. The buzzing and shouting was not another nightmare, it turned out, and as I crept up the bank, I could see unhappy men dressed in orange crowding the bank, swinging around machines on rods in the open space between the blacktop and the treeline, sending clumps of grass, still wet from the dew, flying from the business ends, offering tiny glints in the morning sun. A hundred paces behind them, a large green vehicle growled near the edge of some of the closer trees, with a great arm that reached up to the branches and rent them horribly, with a ripping sound, as much animal as it was mechanical. I could see two men in yellow hats in the cockpit of the machine, pointing up in my general direction, and I froze.

I don't believe I am highly visible in my deerskin, but I felt that these men and their horrible machine were going to cut through straight to my home. Moving carefully, and as quickly as I dared, I crept backwards into the shadow, out of the immediate reach of the thing.

The rock that my hand closed on was about half the size of my head. When the monster finally approached, I felt the sound would deafen me, a hundred times worse than the big boxes that pass by so frequently in the night. When it was nearly upon me, I looked up a moment at the end of the arm, and it was less a fist than a mouth, spinning with brown and gray teeth, chewing up the branches and spitting bark and leaves. I hurled the rock where I thought the cockpit would be, and abandoning caution, I flew back to hide under the branches. As I write now, the sound is fading.

June 18. They cut the other side today. The crews are not hard to avoid when you watch out for them. On this side, I didn't find any sign of my rock, or of anything else but piles of cut grass, now drying and brown, and speared through with new shoots.

August 28. Laying down last night, I could see stars peeking through the breaks in the trees. I am sure I have looked up like that a thousand times, but last night, there was something about how the canopy was broken open and I could see the ragged line that separated the black of the underside of the leaves from the black of the sky, the nearby darkness from the darkness that surrounds the stars, and I felt somehow big enough to reach through it, walk up that shimmering corridor to the endless reaches. It was very quiet, and maybe that was the difference, and no lights went by. Looking out under my stand of trees, I could see the thinnest sliver of moon, hanging low in the sky. I swear I'd never seen the moon before either, not really seen it.

It was a good night for sleeping, dry and comfortable with the faintest crisp taste of autumn mixing in with the air, but I couldn't sleep, worrying about the hole in the trees. I moved out to the edge of the copse, and that helped.

September 19. I am not in my little stand of trees anymore. I feel like I have been restless for many months, but looking here, I can see it hasn't really been so long. It didn't feel like there was a decision made, but this morning, I stuffed my odds and ends into my little pack, what was left of the jerky, my hoard of nuts, and a pastry, now very hard, that I found last night still in the bag. (The bags are excellent for starting fires.) I kicked away my little ring of stones and started walking, clomping over the rough surface of the turnaround, and then on through the grasses, the gray and beige tops of the plants gently brushing my knees.

Maybe I will read this later and wonder what I was thinking. But I am sure I don't know.

September 29. I am standing on an overpass, and have been looking down at the world below me. I have seen many of these continents that intersect my own, both over and under, and crossed them in the manner as the circumstances have demanded. (Usually, like now, they don't even touch.) On these overpasses, my long island has often been cut off by a sudden canyon--and I am forced to navigate along the shoulder if I want to cross. Sometimes I'll wait for night to do this, and I'll sprint along the edge, dragging my hand on the rail while trying not to peer over the other expanse. But now it is not so dark yet, and I have stopped halfway.

Below, another path stretches out perpendicular to mine. It shares the air as my path, and without doubt, leaves blow back and forth and up and down the gorge. Maybe an acorn rolls over the pass and germinates into a little oak, grows, is cut and pruned sometimes, and its roots tangle with the roots from my trees through the mass of soil which is shared too, pulling at the same rivulets of groundwater running through the common earth like veins. I can imagine a man like me walking the lower way, looking up at the overpass. I squinted into the dusk to see if I could see anyone. Did I imagine a flicker of orange? A fire? At this point in the season, it's just as likely to be bears as anything else. I should move into the trees, I think.

October 4. Another turnaround, but this one apparently in use, or at least sort of. The machine is blue and white, and I was surprised to see it occupied, by a clean man, keeping very still. As close as I was, I could see many neat bumps and buttons and clocks on the inside. The man was faced outward, and he was holding a smaller item, although it was not really that small. He supported it with both of his hands.

It took me a long time to creep up to him, but I never saw him move. I think he was asleep. Or dead. But if that was the case, he couldn't have been there that long. I moved quietly past him anyway, crossing from behind. He could have just as likely been sitting at my turnaround.

It is later now, and I am lounging all the way out near the rail and thinking. The blacktop has become much more crowded and faster than I remember. I have grown comfortable walking just the same. I am getting hungrier faster, which is very inconvenient, but there are also many more containers that I can scrounge.

October 19. Thankfully back with some grass around me, with rocks and squirrels.

I kept walking even after my continent shrunk to a strip only twice as wide as I am tall, with a white divider, waist-high, running right down its center. With my feet on the grass, I could still pretend everything was normally sized, and that wasn't so bad. After a day or so of this, however, my grass walkway squeezed in too, and the barrier spread out slightly, and soon all that was left was a solid raised path that I could walk on. As the world closed in, traffic and signs seemed to come from everywhere, and large structures loomed in the distance. There were light poles stuck into the hard surface, and I counted a hundred of these before I gave up.

Far enough along, there were objects that spanned the macadam, a row of little blocks with people in them. I got just far enough see the last lightpost on my walk, where the path finally gave way to nothing at all. The end of the world as far as I'm concerned. I turned back.

The return was much worse, with the lights glowing above me, and also streaming at me fast from both directions. It made my eyes hurt, and I almost lost balance. I slept for a while leaning against a pole, I don't know for how long, before continuing on. Now I am here again, back in some normal space. It's getting a little cold, but I feel safe, and I am thankful for my deer skins. I miss my old camp, but I am happy that I can read about it.

November 5. I know that the world doesn't end there. Obviously the machines are filled with people, and I know that the surfaces are passable--I have crossed turnarounds and bridges made from the same material, and I have retrieved items sometimes a few steps out. I can read signs, and I can see landscapes like mine on the other side. Nothing stops me, and other than the remote fear of getting broken like a deer, there is nothing to even harm me.

I walked out almost to the center line tonight. That far, and I stood for a second before coming back to the comfort of the brown grass and coarse sand. I am sitting now on that edge, having gone that small distance, which is only a tiny fraction of all I have wandered. Vehicles pass by one after the other, humming, and they sound like the wind. They flood my eyes with yellow beams, they light up my dirty and yellowing notepad for a moment before receding red points in the washed-out aftermath. It is dark, and I am sure that they can not see me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blogger's Résumé

Blogging bores you;
Email's choked with spam;
The news depresses you;
And op-eds ain't worth a damn.
Titillation is nsfw-al;
The boards are full of jerks;
Facebook quizzes are awful;
You might as well work.

(with apologies, etc.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pierre Menard, author of Keifus Writes!

These days, it takes a true scholar to remember the work of one Pierre Menard (not the frontier politician, the other one). His legacy consists primarily of a few monographs published at the turn of last century, noted for their utter typicality and general existence within the academic circles of his own time, which to the wider world, not noted at all, even in the early 1900s. He did manage to achieve some passing fame, or notoriety perhaps, for generating a few original reproductions of a few paragraphs of Don Quixote, although most records of that have been unfortunately destroyed. I have frequently wondered about Menard the scholar in an abstract sense--I am sure I have referred to him before--and lately have considered that his legacy may be more significant than is commonly believed. Certainly he is no Cide Benengeli, but perhaps his painstaking transferal of cultural idiom went beyond the medieval Spanish that is normally considered his masterpiece.

Undertaking an anachronistic instrument of no small degree of futurity is a task with it's own set of challenges. The author must presuppose not only entirely new media (and the written forms appropriate to those media), but also a complete future history of war, civics, immigration patterns, communication, and all the other things that can inform a work fiction, memoir, criticism or commentary. By contrast, the task is significantly relieved by the fact that Keifus Writes! has little ambition for, and even less evidence of greatness or, even, any particular relevance. For Quixote , Menard called out in his letters as influential but sufficiently removed from his canon so as to allow premeditation. In the case of Keifus, additional difficulties arise in imagining any seriousness at all, divining the literary bona fides as they say, of a work that is so hopelessly amateur. Regarding Keifus' significance, one is tempted to quip about the legendary ingenuity of fools. (Timid and serous by nature, Menard was never known to pursue cliché or cheap humor, which is one point for the continued integrity of this blog, such as it is. But it must be kept in mind that any accurate transcription of Keifus Writes! would include a necessary element of low humor as well.) A prospective author of Keifus may further attempt a larger challenge, and write the blog through an entirely personal set of attitudes and histories, much as Pierre Menard did with the Quixote, which resulted in an impressive (or embarrassingly inaccurate, if you prefer the Beauchamps criticism) supra-textual nuance of the familiar words.

As for me, the first curious behavior was with Blogger's spell-check software. (That Menard might anticipate spell-checking, as well as the neologism-heavy verbiage of an M-list blog sounds impressive, but, I reiterate, nowhere near as impressive as creating an alternative presentimental mindset from which Keifus, and whatever he'd decide to write, including references to spell-checking, would emerge of necessity.) Several weeks ago, the program began identifying errors, but suggesting identical replacements. Now, I will frequently misspell words like "Massachusetts" (it has the opposite rule as all those English words), "receive" (except after c, dammit) and "manufacturible" (I am still not sure this is the correct way, frankly), as well as commit typographical errors with words like "radiation" ("radiaiton") in a maddening fashion that is clearly wrong in a way that is difficult to follow the lazy i (Menard was known to disparage puns as well), but lately, the computer has prompted me to replace the alleged error with the exact same word. And I have complied, every time.

Furthermore, anyone who knows me, or is familiar with "Keifus," realizes that I put a lot of myself into my blog. Not just for the boring anecdotes, or the vicarious naturalism, or the literature of the nerd that I so love. No, it's more: when I, for example, get worked up about the facile analysis of other commenters, it comes from what I see as an awakening of my worldview, that grew to include more situations than my own, while keeping some notions of fairness, pragmatism, and open-mindedness, at least when it's been convenient to. I like to think it's all been tempered by a well-cultivated tradition of distrusting true believers as well as a lot of deep, independent thought and observation, and even if I flatter myself with that interpretation, it doesn't matter. The point is that these observations, pointed and otherwise, the very language I use to describe them in fact, I have always considered to be in a fundamental sense a product of myself. Pierre Menard's upbringing did not include a modern science education that he would view as a vital tool in his personal crusade to entertainingly abuse of metaphors (Menard hated allegory, but by all accounts was entirely indifferent to the art of metaphor), nor did he suffer the scars of being rejected by Amy Johannsen in the seventh grade (a bachelor, he had a lifelong male roommate), and we can say with authority that he never watched Superfriends. When I create a post, it's with these accounts, as well as a thousand others, all deeply implicit, the product of a unique experience that lends Keifus Writes! my own shading, which simply can't be compromised. None of this mystical ghost-writing crap!

But more or less contemporaneously with the mystery of the spell checker, the blog has been going downhill. Or at least so it seems to me. Even I can notice that there have long been a few recurring themes and repetitive language patterns that I have always thought trivial, but perhaps those things make Keifus Writes! more predictable than similar publications. Maybe that's how Menard gets at it. When I type many of the same sort of text as awlways, it has a tendency lately to come out, well, wrong. The meaning of of the words skirls dismayingly away from my fingertips, so that even though the language is the same, all that I read on the screen is intellectual gibberish of the worst grade, with none of the wit or occasional clarity that I have come to associate with Keifus, nor even that had sounded clever as I recited it to myself moments before. Damn you Menard, why do you torture me like this! That's not what I meant to say at all!

Thursday, August 06, 2009


1. I figure at 36 years old, I'm finally ready to buy a personal item like a watch all by my own self. Specifically, I want something that has a timer that I can use while swimming (more for bunches of laps than individual laps, because, well, look at me), but also which I can wear with my usual office-casual hobo look, as well as with a shirt and tie, when those circumstances arise. Basically, I want something that doesn't look out of place in the gym or when I'm giving a presentation, and can take a beating in chlorinated water. Unfortunately, almost all of the sports watches I've seen look like something I'd think was really cool when I was in eighth grade. (Look! The date flashes!) Any suggestions for an attractive men's watch that fits the bill? Twif, I know you're a man of high fashion.

2. Vacations and summer fun are over, the Missus is gainfully employed, and we are all getting close to the new version of everyone's miserable normal schedule--it's really been time to get back to those healthy habits that've been so hard to keep alive this last year. And jumping in for the last ten days, I just ain't been right. I've had this awful, listless, tired, outside-myself sensation, less intensity of feeling, slightly anxious where I'm not normally, a shitty night's sleep more often than not. It's most likely some combination of the sudden change in work habits (getting back), diet (better), exercise (more), and schedule (why am I doing all the cooking? how the hell can it be 5 AM already?!), but if I'm being really honest with myself, I can't quite rule this out either. Never worried before.

3. Just so you know: I'm not a fig plucker, nor a fig plucker's son, but I'll pluck the figs till the fig plucker comes.

4. I would have thought I'd drifted much further to the flaming radical end of the political spectrum, but I guess I don't trust any authority enough for that. (I came out strongly non-interventionalist and culturally liberal, so don't ask me how the silly quiz calculates the political vector. Probably the confusion is that I am not very emphatic about many of my opinions, especially when they don't match the offered wording. They should have a "difficult" axis, I'd nail that one.) I'll say that as my fearless leaders continue to drift toward full-on corporate whoredom and a militarized state, who won't spend a dime to actually help people even when the data is in that the programs are effective, and remain basically unresponsive to the various externalities the private owners ain't paying for, then those conditions make me feel like a fucking socialist. Anyway, I don't think this has changed very much at all since last time I took it a couple years ago, which was a surprise.
My Political Views
I am a centrist social libertarian
Left: 0.89, Libertarian: 3.66

Political Spectrum Quiz

5.I looked over some old posts quoting that old quiz (failed to find it, of course). The posts are about 70% of them godawful. And really, next time I feel the need to cough up yet another general statement of my political beliefs, the exact same hairball I apologetically presented six months ago, feel free to just smack me upside the head.

6. This is one of those things that looks like a possible upside to all the senseless killing, but is almost certainly batshit retarded in its own right. Turning the Monsanto corn crop into a global monoculture (the stuff is everywhere!), especially in some of the more bizarre climate zones, sounds like a recipe for worldwide food disaster. Here, it's being established at gunpoint (soldier farmers?), so score another one for the profiteers. What are the words to the Workers' Marseillaise again? (Via, uh, Newshoggers? I can't find the linking article. I suck.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Why You Shouldn't Become Politically Aware

"Federal court injunctions became one of the standard tools of management...[F]or Taft, the growth of unions was not synonymous with progress, was perhaps antithetical to it...This change [in standard of living near the turn of the century] had been produced by a wondrous growth of industry and commerce, nurtured by a small but energetic government and made possible the freedoms, political and economic, that seemed at the heart of the definition of being American. Interfering with these freedoms or vastly changing the size and role of government might be attractive in some momentary crisis, Taft understood, or might commend itself to believers in some radical theory; but to a man who had seen the system work over time, to tamper with it was the height of folly, and the duty of men like himself was to preserve and strengthen the framework which had made this progress possible."

One of the worst passages in the book, right there on page six. I'll review the thing before very long (to the unfettered delight of all), but the short version is that Michael Barone would have been better off if he didn't try and pepper in these observations as if they were occasional theses. (Here, he's only channeling William Howard Taft, but those interjections are a running theme.) The basic issues with the quote shouldn't be hard to spot: (1) government's emphatic union busting obviously meddled with freedoms (2) standard of living may well have improved (especially by measure of consumption), but industrialization also brought new forms of pollution, workplace hazards, indebtedness, required specialization at the expense of other skills, and it mucked up family life and settlement patterns--it's a mixed bag even now, and in those days, the failures of the system vis a vis personal freedom were pretty stark; (3) interference in worker demonstrations isn't really the action of a "small government," the obvious fact of which isn't much relieved by his use of the word "energetic". A better sense of the passage might come from the phrase, "men like himself."

I suppose I remain a technological optimist. I subscribe to the idea that technological progress does increase the standard of living, and it's exciting for me to imagine the hypothetical limits of what progress can accomplish (and why I'm so pleased with novels like Steel Beach or Player Piano, which seem to get at some truths of it). I'd add that my starry-eyed vision isn't so rapinous as the early technological models, and next-generation solutions, in the unlikely event we are lucky enough to develop them, would require some harmonious development under the constraints of biodiversity, available energy, population, space, and, perhaps even, human spirit. But that's all happy-talk, and a tangent. In the case of industrialization, we have a few important leaps in medical science (that I wouldn't throw away), physical mobility and communications drastically eased (likewise), an immense increase in firepower, and a slew of innovations ultimately became labor-savors, but it took some hundred years for that set of benefits to seep in the direction of the many (thanks in part to the unions Taft mistrusted), and doing more with a bunch of souped-up waldoes hasn't freed us much, and the glorious convenience is overplayed. Since most of the population still has to work to live, the labor saving (and labor trading) has made Americans more than a little frantic. As it is, I don't know how I, with nine years of science education, can possibly afford to get the kids through college, and it's a shame they'll never afford a house, even if they have a relatively cheap tv.

(You can find a good discussion at the site of the incomparable IOZ, here.)

Does economic growth require innovation? I am disinclined to use the word when it comes to new financial, managerial or political developments (the recent unpleasantness looks less like real innovation and more like rediscovering ways to cheat, and I've had too many managers, followed too much politics), but there appears to be a correlation even there, one we wouldn't deny given enough historical perspective. Over on Sadly, No!, D. Aristophanes scored a good point regarding medical innovation: the "delivery of health care to more people at less cost" is a medical innovation. Certainly it improves the standard of living for more people, which, at the end of the day, is the exact same argument for capitalism. Why does the fact that it has such a good chance of being better piss off the alleged capitalists off so much?

You can correctly complain about means, but it's the ends that are a measurement of a system's worth, not that they are so easy to tell apart. Is a fair chance in a given economic framework the same as liberty when the "free market" systematically produces drastic inequality? Of course no market is free: usually, the capitalist political argument tends to ignore the tendency of power to accumulate by economic means, and ignores the reality that an economic/political advantage, once gained, is damnably difficult to dispel. That rising tide has tended to lift some boats a lot higher than others. If the failure to deliver meaningful freedom is intrinsic, then what the hell do we want that system for? I am by no means suggesting going full Commie here either, with an undisputed political/economic mandate as a non-rebuttal to the economic/political one. The point is, what the hell is the difference when the government and the titans of industry intermarry so fully anyway? As someone just trying to get by, unless you're on top of it, you're pretty damn frantic.

The advocate of conservatism considers that hey, the system works for me, sometimes with considerable effort, and it shouldn't be changed. I can be sympathetic with the desire to not give up even that much ground. Libertarians, best I can tell, think that hey, the system works for me because I'm just that fucking great. Thinking in terms of "men like yourself" is one thing when you're young, your future looks bright, and you don't really know anyone outside your social circle, but I'm finding the whole business tiresome these days. (Too much time on the internet. I didn't need to know what my old friends think about stuff.) It would be nice if personal success correlated better with effort and aptitude, maybe a little less egregiously with connections. It'd be nice too, if in this affluent country at least, there was enough embedded security that hitting the bottom didn't knock you right out of the game. In those markets models, the glib ones that have been irritating me anyway, it's generally a matter of assumption that we are working with roughly equal odds in life, but that's not really true. That condition could be considered the ends as much as the means.

Let me know if you figure out how to get to it.

(Update: also this.)