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The End of the Upper Middle Class?

The End of the Upper Middle Class? is a fantastic article on the Fiscal Times that I stumbled across. The funny thing is that I just happened to stumble across the original article about “making it” on $250K a year over a year ago, and that struck me too. Danica points out to me that some of the budget isn’t fair, with a lot of — strictly speaking — unnecessary line items, but I think the reality of the message holds: if taxes go up much more upon this sector of the country, you’ll just have one of the breadwinners “go John Galt” and opt out of the work force. That will result in LESS tax revenue, not more.

Your Disney World Fix

So, the whole family is making the trek to The World this summer, and of course we’re already counting down the days. The planner in me loves this sort of thing, and I try to keep abreast of Disney World related developments, ideas, and news as much as I can by following several blogs and web sites. Today, I read two fairly quick posts that made me want to go there right now. So, if you want to share my pain/enjoyment, read on:

Great Disney World Dining on a Budget: thank God I read this after I had eaten lunch. Cobb salads are a favorite of mine. 

My Disney Top 5 – Magical Spots in the Magic Kingdom: the challenge here is going to actually remembering to check some of these places out. 

Charles Murray Quiz

Last week, I listened to an interview with Charles Murray on the Ricochet podcast that was pretty interesting. The hosts were all talking about their scores in some quiz, one being pretty embarrassed about getting 13 on it. So, after the podcast, I found some time to do some digging at take the quiz myself. The book’s Coming Apart, and it’s thesis, I believe, says that the leadership class of this country has consistently been veering away from the values, more, and culture of “middle America”. They’re living in a bubble. If this is the case, the danger to a representative democracy should be obvious. You can’t represent something you don’t understand. 

So, the higher the number, the more in touch you are with the center of this country. What did I get? 52! Being raised in a small town and working blue collar and service jobs when I was younger represented the bulk of the points. I’m pretty typical. Interesting questions, though. I suspect that the people you hang out with will usually have pretty similar scores, even if you don’t hang with the people you grew up with.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/77349055/Coming-Apart-by-Charles-Murray-Quiz

DRM Sucks

The big reason media DRM sucks: it enforces the fact you don’t own it, and makes your ability to use it temporary. I honestly wonder how many people who buy digital movies or TV shows from Apple, Amazon, or Sony, buy apps from Apple or Google, or buy comics from Comixology understand that? This thought came up because of news that Comixology’s big competitor in the world of digital comics, Graphic.ly, is now getting out of the app business. People that have sunk money into building any sort of comic collection with them just heard the warning bell of that aforementioned time limit.

Listen: I’m just saying to be clear about what you’re buying when you get DRM-laced content. Never buy anything that you’re not pretty much conformable with one day losing access to forever. If it’s anything you want to have as you grow old, don’t get it with DRM. It’s that simple. Some things this makes sense: magazines and TV shows are good examples of things that most people consume once and done. Music is on the other end of the spectrum: most people would like to have access to their songs 10, 20, or 30 years down the road. Movie, books, and comics probably fall somewhere in the middle. Some people will re-watch or re-read them, and others will never revisit them. Think about it and decide where you are, and be aware that no matter how big and powerful the company that you buy your content from is, someday they will die, and likely you won’t have access to whatever DRM’d thing you purchased from them way back when. 

An older, but great, post that I found musing about the concept of digital ownership in the comics realm is here: read it! 

http://www.comicsalliance.com/2010/12/23/digital-december-ownership/

Equality in Education

This was pasted in a recent post by Jerry Pournelle on his Chaos Manor site. It’s fantastic. The further I read, the more impressed I was by it’s sheer insightfulness:

The demand for equality has two sources; one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But the other source is the hatred of superiority. At the present moment it would be very unrealistic to overlook the importance of the latter.

There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resist the existence of what is stronger, subtler or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal small men this hardens into an implacable and disinterested hatred for every kind of excellence. . . .

Equality (outside mathematics) is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic; she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careless. Virtue is not democratic; she is achieved by those who pursue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic; she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favours.

Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death. A truly democratic education—one which will preserve democracy—must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly “high-brow.”

C. S. Lewis “Democratic Education” (1944) as quoted in “Notable and Quotable” WSJ 03/30/2012

Great. I need to track down Lewis’ non-fiction works (Mere Christianity has been on my list forever). We need more people today with this caliber of clarity with regard to our education system’s many issue. Just wanted to share.

Last Men Standing: Losers

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the losers (literally — they all have suffered huge political loses in the past) that are leading the Republican race this year. Why are the second — or third — string players the last men standing this year of all years? It’s rare that a sitting president is so vulnerable during their reelection year as Obama is. You’d think the field would be a little more — impressive than it is.

While I don’t know the answer, one possibility that occurred to me is the financial problems our country faces is so insurmountable that the smarter, more capable ones see they’d just be the captain of a sinking ship. What’s the point in that? They don’t think they can fix it, and have a reasonable chance of being The Guy that’s in charge when the Schumer hits the fan. Not a great place in history.
So who’s left? Delusionary Megalomaniacs (Newt), Sent by God (Santorum), and the Inevitable (Romney).

Or… smart, capable, freedom loving people just generally don’t do well at politics in America these days. Probably more likely.

Best Review of The Killing Finale Yet

This guy over at ESPN nails my reaction to the final episode of season one of The Killing pretty much perfectly. I know that the show runner for The Killing is of the opinion that all publicity is good publicity, but that’s not true, is it? Ask Rep. Weiner or New Coke.

Glad to Live in the Pacific Northwest Right Now

I saw this map on Weather.com today and was very, very glad to live in the Pacific Northwest (not that we don’t have our messed up weather sometimes too, but not right now!). This is the difference between the actual lows and the average lows across the country. Freakin’ brr.

Escher (in LEGO!)


Whoa.

Those Little Hotel Room Shampoos

When I stay at hotel rooms, I always keep the little shampoos that they give you. It’s a weird frugal thing I have, and always have had. Still, I know that a lot of people leave them half used in the hotel showers.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a meeting at my church, and there was a discussion going on about getting goods and supplies together for a sister parish we have in Shiprock, New Mexico. Some of the items they need there are soap and shampoo, and I wondered aloud were all the unused portions of shampoo at hotels goes when the room’s cleaned. It was assumed that, well, it gets thrown away. That makes sense, right? The hotel would be liable if they gave the unused portion to some charity, and it turned out it was contaminated with something. Not a fun thought.

Good news, though: Disney’s already thought of this and come up with a solution:

Walt Disney World has agreed to work with Clean the World, a charitable organization committed to the prevention of illness and death caused by acute respiratory infection and diarrheal disease in countries across the globe. Disney resorts will work with Clean the World to recycle all partially used amenities from all resort hotel rooms. Clean the World sanitizes those partially used soaps and shampoos to remove them from the trash stream and to distribute them to people in need around the world. By providing these soaps and shampoos to countries including Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uganda, Mali, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mongolia, and Romania, the organization hopes to keep people worldwide from dying from diseases that can be prevented with proper handwashing. In 2009, Clean the World processed and delivered over 230 tons of soap and other bathroom amenities worldwide.

I wonder how it’s “sanitized”? Is it just the biologicals that are removed? If someone put in a chemical pollutant into the bottle, would that be caught? I hope so.