I Should Be Writing Right Now

I hate writing. Actually that is not true, I love to write. However, I begin to severely second guess myself after about 1000 words. By the time I get passed the 5000 word mark I am sure that everything written so far has to be scrapped.

Writing is difficult for me for a multitude of reasons, most of which exist only in my mind.

An example of second guessing is as follows. I wrote, and rewrote, a 6000 word paper at least 14 times in 2019. Not a joke. Why did this happen? No clue. The only thing I am sure of is that writing makes me happy and simultaneously tortures me.

Today, I am having something I think should be called ‘thinkers’ block’. I am writing like a madman, but when I go back to read my progress, it is all garbage.

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Revolutions and Taxes

Do you want all the money in the world? Or do you want to loose it all?

I am not one to chant ‘eat the rich’. I’d like to be rich some day, but that probably is not in the cards. Nor do I have any animosity for those who are rich. Good for you buddy!

That being said…

Jeff Bezos paid nothing in taxes in 2018. I paid $6000. Believe me, I make far less than Mr. Bezos. I am getting by fine on my salary and fully understand why taxes exist. So why are the rich not paying taxes? To keep them happy? To fend off their political retribution on officials who would dare to raise taxes? Who knows. The only thing that is for certain is that not taxing the rich (at least on the same level as the rest of us) will lead to a very dark place.

Billionaires are billionaires because of the masses and nothing else. Mr. Bezos enjoys his fabulous wealth because he lives in a society that is safe and secure. If we want to continue to have a safe world, many things need to change. People need to have enrichment and not have to worry about the basics of life: education, food, shelter, healthcare, and the like.

The first would be to ensure everyone had access to healthcare. While not popular, a national plan would best solve this issue. Having to choose between healthcare and rent is a choice no one should face.

Secondly, a minimum basic income (thanks Andrew Yang for inventing this! (just kidding, Yang is a great guy but the Honorable Daniel Patrick Moynihan was the first (serious person) to suggest this)). Rather than have complicated programs where people have to jump through multiple hoops of bureaucracy, just start giving people money. Let us say, $1500/month per person living in a household that makes under $50K (just made that number up). There would have to be adjustments for children and what not, but that would be a good start.

Third, education. Start by ensuring teachers are paid well. Then do away with standardized tests and hire more teachers; a maximum of 15 kids/class in K-6 and maximum of 20 in grades 7-12. Finally, do away with large overarching curriculum demands/designs. Let teachers teach! More technology is not the answer to creating better citizens.

I guarantee by following all of these steps that the world will be perfect. Ok, maybe not. But society is placing far too many people in dire circumstances that would be alleviated by these three steps. No one likes to pay taxes, but if we want to continue to escape the state of nature it will be necessary to create better lives for those less fortunate.

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Let’s Keep Working Online!

There are no shortage of headlines and stories in the news (actual news, not Twitter or whatever the current social media of the day is) about how the transition to working online might be permanent. This. Is. A. Bad. Idea.

Working online separates us from our colleagues and people in general. Yes, the current state of great jobs are all tech based that can mostly be done from anywhere. However, this ignores the fact that human beings need social interaction of some kind: not virtual interaction, actually being present with them.

Perhaps the transition to online work would be better, but there is no evidence that would suggest this is true. It is important to consider the social cost accompanied with the transition to working on-line. First, human labor did not change much until the first industrial revolution. Hand labor accomplished everything that humans needed. Almost overnight (at least considering the existence of modern humans is ~200,000 years old) we transitioned to factories, replacing human labor with that of machines. For the wealthy, this did not change much, but for the rest of society it was a shock. The industrial revolution took place ~300 years ago and that is a considerably short amount of time for things to change so quickly.

Secondly, moving things online would only exacerbate the divide between the haves and the have-nots. People that are disadvantaged in society (and there are a lot) already face tremendous hurdles for taking part in the digital economy. How often have you seen ‘apply online’ for what might be considered unskilled labor? It might be easy for college graduates to apply for jobs online, but what about those without home internet? Those without smart phones? ‘Just go to the library and pull yourself up by the boot straps.’ Easier said than done.

The rumblings of work online serve to benefit a select few, while leaving the most vulnerable people out of luck. This is not right. This turns our back on our fellow human beings. Regardless of your spiritual affiliation (or perhaps lack thereof) anyone who is not a sociopath has at least some sympathy for other people. Creating an economy that continues to marginalize the most vulnerable is not the right thing to do and will only serve to increase the profits of people like Jeff Bezos, whose company made $800,000,000,000 in 2018 yet paid NOTHING in federal taxes.

This is not a rant to eat the rich, but is an appeal for everyone to be kind and consider those who are not as fortunate.

 

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Buying Books

I often warn my students that becoming a subject specialist (librarian) is not all glitz and glamour. The idea of being in charge of an entire discipline/subject area for collection is quite appealing (to ~0.0001% of the population, but includes myself). However, purchasing books for your library can be a dream turned nightmare come true.

Consider the following. You are a subject specialist at a pretty ok university and have $40,000 to buy books on political science each year. Yes, this sounds awesome, but it also ventures into a kind of punishment.

The Simpson’s have a great moment to illustrate this.

 

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And the new Governor of California is…Kim Kardashian

Kim Kardashian is the daughter of Robert Kardashian, an absolutely brilliant defense lawyer. She also has a reality TV show and is a social media influencer. She is famous for becoming famous because of a sex tape. I watched the first 10 minutes of the reality TV show featuring her and her family and had to turn it off due to the absurd level of banality.

So why will she be governor of California? First, she is in the process of getting her law license in California, which is the only state that you can get a law license through apprenticeship, meaning you do not have to go to law school. My hunch is that Ms. Kardashian will use this ‘credential’ to start some kind of social campaign for some issue that is truly important. Unfortunately, voters will probably ignore the fact that this person has no business being a governor of a state. Secondly, people love social media and the stars of social media. Personally, I do not understand this, but what do I know.

Our current social media President has proven that the only requirement to get elected is being popular enough with no consideration for ability. Thus enters Ms. Kardashian. I don’t know her and never will. She is likely a nice person who cares about…something. However, one has to question the ability for someone to have actual responsibility who was made famous by having a sex-tape leaked on the Internet.

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This App Will End the Pandemic!

Well maybe.

There are number of data scientists working on applications to help track the spread of Covid-19. This is a good idea in theory, however we need to consider a few things.

First, everyone does not have a smartphone. Shocking as it may be, this is the truth. Those less likely to have a smartphone are lower income and already vulnerable to the ills of society.

Second, what exactly do we stand to gain from tracking? How accurate is phone tracking?

Finally, what are the implications for privacy? I am relatively tech savvy, but it is still unclear to me exactly how one’s location is known, but more importantly are these tracking features being used all the time? Which ‘terms and conditions’ did users opt into to enable this feature?

Now more than ever we should rely on fact based information, not just the things that are a shinny distraction.

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The Internet is a Utility

A week or so after the pandemic started our Internet went out, entirely at first and then back to a fraction of its capacity after a week. Taking part in Zoom meetings was impossible for me, the preferred medium of the institution I work for. Both my professors and students were all understanding of this situation. However, the reliance on the Internet for work made it clear that Internet service is critical for being able to participate in modern work culture. The Internet is more like a utility in this instance.

However, the Internet is not as important as clean drinking water and powering the lights. We have created a culture in which access to the Internet is not an option for most people that want to participate in the modern economy. If it is that crucial, we need to do more to ensure that everyone has access, not just those that can afford it.

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Handwriting…electronically.

Practicing my handwriting has become part of my daily attempt to keep insanity at bay during this period of isolation. Try as we all might, it is difficult to avoid shopping from Amazon (the company not the forest). Recently I have started looking for new books for practicing Spencerian writing: I am determined to write my qualifying exams by hand, although I’m sure this will be soundly rejected.

In the search for new study material I came across this.

What? A Kindle version? How, exactly would this work? Also, why in Sam Hell is the electronic version cheaper than the print?

Whenever possible it is best to purchase from smaller companies, such as Goulet Pens, Jet Pens, or Nibs.com. If you are interested in what has been dubbed American Cursive, check out Michael Sull’s website. Mr. Sull is a Master Penman with unbelievable skill, here is a video of him at work.

If you are interested, and have made the poor decision to have kids, try Handwriting Without Tears.

Back to writing.

*Note, no one paid me or asked me to promote their products, nor do I make any money off of this blog.

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Money to people that need it, the airline industry…

The US airline industry has asked for a $50 billion aid package to help them survive this crisis, which they will likely get. $50 Billion. Why does the industry need this? Also, how does this keep in line with the basic tenants of capitalism laid out by Adam Smith?

Smith believed in the Invisible Hand of capitalism. That is, the market would determine the best case of action through demand. This is contradictory to bailouts and subsidies. If the US airline industry cannot stand on its own, then it simply cannot/should not exist as a group of privately owned companies. This is not to say that they should be federalized, but that might be an option. Large multi-billion dollar corporations have received enough bailouts.

It would appear that more people are concerned about social security checks being used to buy alcohol or smartphones than subsidized corporations giving their executives multi-million dollar bonuses.

Regardless of who gets ‘free money’ there will always be waste. However, there might be a slightly higher net-gain by giving people (poor people that is) money in hand. Bailing out companies is not the answer. It is also important to consider that Jeff Bezos paid NOTHING in federal taxes for the 2018 tax year. Does he really need to be tax free?

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Pandemics and Information Literacy

Chiropractors are NOT doctors. Yes, they often call themselves ‘doctor’ but that does not make it so. The great western philosopher George Carlin once said, you can call yourself a captain, but if you can make that up then I am a Field Marshal (or at least something like that). The point here is that definitions matter.  ‘Chropractic’ is pseudo-scientific. Yes, there is some benefit to seeing a Chiropractor, specifically for those who think they feel better after a treatment. But just because you think you feel better does not make it true. For instance, the found of Chiropractic wrote the following in a letter dated May 4, 1911, “But we must have a religious head, one who is the founder, as did Christ, Mohamed, Jo. Smith, Mrs. Eddy, Martin Luther and other who have founded relations. I am the fountain head.” -So here Palmer is telling us that he is on par with Jesus Christ. Dr. Palmer goes on, “we must incorporate under the man [palmer] who received the principles of chiropractic from the other world”.  And now for something different.

“I need to find the latest information about the Covid-19”. –So let’s go online….

Wrong. The Internet is effectively doing more harm than good. What is the solution? Newspapers. Journalist and the journalism profession are far from perfect. However, real journalists have a set code of ethics. Yes, some journalists break this code, but more often than not journalists/journalism is responsible-that is actual journalists.

When journalism is labeled “fake news” or “phony” it is important to examine who is saying this and to what are they referring. “The pope endorses Donald Trump for President” was an actual headline published in 2016 from a non-reputable source. So you might ask, who is saying this and why? This quote was published by WTOE5News.com, a ‘news’ source that existed for only a few weeks. In fact, the about section of this website described itself as, “a fantasy news website”. This site, and others like it, make money off of ‘clicks’ which is why such ridiculous stories are present in your social media news feeds (pro tip-DO NOT GET YOUR NEWS FROM SOCIAL MEDIA).

Now more than ever it is important to get relevant/correct information to the public. Posting rumors on Twitter does nothing to benefit society, only to create panic and make people believe that someone is an expert ‘just because.’ While we live in a time that is distrustful of educated people, it might be time to rethink how we treat people who dedicate themselves to learning and teaching. By this, I mean subscribe to your local newspaper and listen to those with actual credentials.

 

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