History is a Reminder that We Do Not Live in Uniquely Stupid or Chaotic Times

This comic is from 1930 and about the smallpox vaccine, but it is also 100% from this past year and about Right Now. (The second guy is labelled “Faddist,” which Snopes explains is “a largely archaic word that describes people who turn to alternative or niche health trends, especially diets, in a way that neglects or contradicts mainstream scientific advice.”  i.e., anyone taking horse dewormer or insisting on hydroxychloroquine while rejecting the vaccine.)

Flashback Friday: “First Days”

Just a brief reflection on First Days at school. I wrote this back in 2017, when my youngest began kindergarten. I posted it now, because after 406 with no in-person school, it’s taken me a month to process that her first day of the school year came and went without dire consequences.

About to board the bus for her First Day

This old essay begins like so:

Tuesday was my daughter’s first day of kindergarten. At 4:20, when her bus finally arrived, she didn’t get off.

The driver checked, first calling out from the front, then shushing all of the kids and calling out again, then finally going seat to seat down the length of the big yellow bus.

My daughter wasn’t there.

Don’t worry—this is an “all’s well that ends” situation…

from First Days (or “To Hell with Mitch Albom and his Bullshit Flat-Earth Nostalgia”)

It goes on from there. And, no, I have no clue why I chose to defame Mitch Albom in the title of this pieces. I never mention him in the entire essay. He must have just pissed me off that day. Dude does that.

On the occasion of his 365th day spent shredding guitar and filing patents in Heaven

This is a real illustration for a real patent really filed by (and granted to) Eddie Van Halen—yes, that Eddie Van Halen of the band Van Halen, may his memory be for a blessing.

Fig 1, US Patent 4,656,917, "Musical instrument support," Eddie Van Halen

(FUN FACT: The above video has not “aged poorly”; it was exactly as offensive in 1984 as it is today. Also, still hella catchy.)

FUN FACT: Moderating Facebook Gives Facebook Moderators PTSD

The question for me is this: Does Facebook provide anywhere near the social value to justify what this man suffered?  Does it provide enough value to justify the suffering of the likely thousands of workers who Facebook employees to protect us from Facebook?

As you reflect on this, you probably want to check out The Facebook Files, an ongoing investigative series from the Wall Street Journal (articles are paywalled, but the related podcasts are free and worth your time and attention).

Plainly put, Facebook profits from hate and misery. Further reads:

Brass tacks question: Given what social media companies like FB can and will do, in terms of exerting editorial control when it is in their interest to do so, I’m left wondering if they really deserve Section 230 protection?  

FB, of course, is far from unique here—or, maybe, is uniquely awful only in the magnitude and clarity of their disfunction and viciousness.  For a Twitter-centric rumination on the fundamental design aspects of social media that are making it so damaging to both individual humans and larger human societies, please read Noah Smith’s rational (and, in the case of the later, research-backed) articles “The Shouting Class” and  “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels”: 

“In other words, society has always had about the same number of shouty jerks. But with the rise of social media, we have moved our society’s political discussions from spaces in which the shouty jerks were at least somewhat marginalized and contained to spaces that preferentially amplify their voices.…In pursuit of personal glory, bad people turn neighbor against neighbor.”

Noah Smith in “The Shouting Class 2: Last Refuge of Scoundrels

BILLIONAIRES

A few weeks back I was walking the dog when it dawned on me that a billionaire could give away $1 million each week for a year, and he (yes, HE) would still be a billionaire at the end of that year[1]

And a billionaire is practically a pauper.  If Jeff Bezos did this for 1,000 years—if he gave away $1 million every week for 52 weeks each year over the course of 1,000 years—he’d still have over $50 billion left, assuming he doesn’t invest his money at all, just keeps in a big hole in the ground. If you taxed his current wealth at 99%—something that, to the best of my knowledge, no elected or appointed official has ever come remotely close to suggesting—then he’d still be a billionaire, and could still give away a million a week for a year without stopping being a billionaire.

All “conservative” freak-outs about taxes and stifling innovation and redistribution of whatever aside, there’s literally no way to take it all away from Bezos or Musk or Gates or Zuckerberg or the Waltons or the Kochs, not in practical terms, not before they’d had time to make it all back on something as benign and boring as holding government bonds.

And as I walked the dog, I just thanked my lucky stars that we fought a revolution in this country to break away from all the old potentates and riyals and dynasties, to be sure there was at least one spot on earth where a man could live free and equal with all other men, not as some peon who could be ground under the foot of a clumsy giant whose piles of lucre blocked his ability to see where he was going and what he was doing. Humanity really dodged a bullet with this whole democracy situation!😅 Anyway, gotta go cook 25-cent Ramen for my kids!

But as I walked a little further, it dawned on me that what I was really saying was: 

“If you have the luck and privilege to have your shit together enough to have some real portion of your wealth socked away in any decent retirement savings plan, then you can afford to give away at least 0.5 to 1% of your wealth every year and still be wealthy.”

And was I even doing that?

Nope, I wasn’t.

But, shit, now I’ve got a goal, don’t I? 💸

[1] For all practical purposes: Let’s assume this billionaire has his wealth invested in something as safe and stodgy as bond funds, which historically earn ~2–4% each year. If he gives away $1 million each week for a year, his nest egg will be reduced to $948,000,000, but he’ll earn $18–$37 million on that, bringing him back up to just shy of $1 billion. If he’s invested in something extremely safe, like an S&P 500 index fund, he’ll likely come out of the year ahead, having earned ~$75 million on the money he had left over after having given away $52 million.)

Tough Turban looks boss as Hell!!!

I literally love everything about this:

  • I love it when advances in manufacturing and design technology are used to democratize freedom
  • I love it when anything is free (as in beer) for non-commercial use
  • I love non-Newtonian fluids and foams
  • And, as someone in a similarly minuscule minority (Sikhs are ~1.5% of Canada; Jews are ~2% of the U.S.), I love it when folks in the majority dispense with their implicit why can’t you just live like us?-istic “tolerance” and instead presume our lives, lifestyles, and traditions have implicit value that does not need to be justified or explained

Also, those guys look dope, and I hella went a skateboarding helmet that’s made if these same materials, ’cause it looks super comfy and will no doubt get along better with my glasses.