bear - ingn.1 the manner in which one comports oneself; 2 the act, power, or time of bringing forth offspring or fruit; 3 a machine part in which another part turns [a journal ~]; 4pl. comprehension of one's position, environment, or situation; 5 the act of moving while supporting the weight of something [the ~ of the cross].
The other day, I posed a question to a few of my co-workers--if you needed the people- and cargo-carrying capacity of a large vehicle, would you really penalize yourself by selecting something less useful than a minivan just to save your ego? And if that's true, just how sad is that? How much are we letting what others think dictate a fundamental part of our everyday lives? A surprising number said they would never drive a minivan, no matter what.
Popular culture is so anti-minivan today that driving one is so counter-culture, so in the face of popular biases, so keeping-it-real, that it's almost punk rock. In a utilitarian way, anyway.
I've driven a Toyota Sienna for a bit more than a year. It's fantastic to drive. It seats eight. Pretty good mileage. And it can haul 4x8 sheet goods.
(In the comments in the above thread:
I feel sorry for you. Keep trying to fool yourself. You're married with 2.5 kids, but you're still cool! Really! F'n boomers.
One of the most fun, and unexpected, benefits of throwing the blog out there has been the chance to meet other bloggers. "C.J." of the blog Light and Momentary contacted me last week to let me know that she and her husband were making an out-of-town overnight trip to St. Paul, and did I want to meet up with them?
My first thought was -- you're taking your first out-of-town overnight trip together in years, and you want to spend some of it with me? But my second thought was Sure! so after some text messaging back and forth (it's no fun to call someone whose voice you've never heard before as you lead up to meeting in real life) we arranged to meet at Mickey's Diner in downtown St. Paul.
(Bonus! I got to go to Mickey's Diner. Without the impetus of an out-of-town guest I probably would never have gotten around to it. My review: it's fun and has tasty burgers, but Al's Breakfast in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis probably has it beat for authentic greasy spoon atmosphere).
Well, it was really lovely to sit and chat for a while, and to meet "Elwood" too. (Happy 40th birthday, Elwood! Thanks for being willing to spend it with strangers that your wife knows from the Internets!) I got to find out why her family's pseudonym is Most-Gladly and why the blog is called Light and Momentary. She got to find out that I never bother to read "about" pages. (Doggone it! Now I want to know about early fatty acid intake on neurodevelopment too! And it's too late to ask!)
Megan McArdle is blogging aboutfoodstamps. I was interested to find out from one of her posts that the government publishes a "thrifty food plan" -- a "nutritious, minimal-cost diet" -- as well as food plans at three higher cost levels ("low," "moderate," and "liberal") and also publishes the monthly cost of food on each plan. This is the government's suggestion of how to live healthfully on a tight food budget.
The "thrifty" plan, supposedly, costs an average of $487.90 per month (as of December 2007) to feed a couple with two small children. You can calculate it for individual familes -- the monthly and weekly cost is broken down for individuals of different ages here. (An adult female can be fed, it says, for $33.30 per week. A teenage boy, for $34.40.) The plans themselves are given as "market baskets," that is, pounds per week of certain categories of foods: in each week, an adult male is supposed to consume 2.82 pounds of whole grain breads, 0.08 pounds of whole grain cereals, 1.66 pounds of non-whole-grain cereals and breads, 1.24 pounds of dark green vegetables, and so on. To see the market baskets in the thrifty food plan, go to this pdf file and scroll to Table ES-1, which begins on page 11.
It's kind of interesting just to compare our family's food expenditures (which I don't track carefully -- I just have a general idea of how much we spend at the grocery store and local dairy each week, and I don't know yet how long the quarter-beef and half-hog we got this year are going to last, and I admit to not paying any attention at all to restaurant/coffee shop spending) to that cost. And to compare our family's food variety (which I do have a good idea of, since I plan all the meals) to the government's suggestions of how to plan a "nutritious, minimal-cost" diet. Actually, it doesn't look like a bad nutritional plan overall, considering the cost constraints. I wish they had a category for pregnant and/or nursing women, though.
Readers at the VC are answering a bleg for suggestions: libertarian-themed fiction for 12-year-olds. Suggestions vary widely: George Orwell, Kafka, Heinlein, the Harry Potter series, Orson Scott Card, Madeline L'Engle, Neil Gaiman... and numerous more authors that I'm unfamiliar with.
There's a lively debate about the age-appropriateness and interest level of the various books. I liked this comment from "Gadzookie" (paragraph breaks and some formatting added):
What puzzles me about this discussion is the absence of any real thought as to
(a) not turning the girl off to reading in general (Howard's End at 12?!?!) or
(b) what kind of person you actually want to teach her to be. ....
[I]t seems to me that giving her books telling her that the only way to be happy is to leave behind the droves of commonfolk ([Ayn] Rand), or that you should live a life of spoiled decadence (Stranger in a Strange Land), or that the government is going to make rats eat off your face (1984) is somewhat ill-advised.
The virtue of Wrinkle in Time or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is that they aren't so endlessly negative about the possibilities for happiness in the world we have.
Check it out if you like book discussion threads.
Personally, I can't stand Heinlein either. Even though I disagree strongly with her attitude, I think Ayn Rand's books are valuable as a part of the political-fiction canon, but at the late high school level, not for 12-year-olds. I was about 12 when I read 1984, and even with the face-eating rats, I loved it. A Wrinkle in Time seems more like a book for a ten-year-old to me.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Oscar's impending first Confession. Well, it's all over now. Margaret in Minnesota's daughter "Cate" was in his class at our parish. She writes about the program here. She captured Oscar in a photo of kids waiting in line for the confessional; in the photo at the bottom, he's the kid in the middle in the blue shirt.
(In other words, I'm letting her blog for me. Busy day!)
Fascinating because several commenters defend the idea of keeping found money, even if the owner's identifiable. Direct quote:
it's hilarious what people will pretend, even behind the anonimity of comment boxes.
I am way more honest for admitting what I would do with a found wallet - not a stolen wallet but a lost wallet - than all these people here pretending to be pure.
I suppose this comes from having a moral calculus that goes like this:
1. I am a decent, ordinary person, certainly no worse than anyone else
2. If I found somebody's money and could get away with it, I'd keep it
3. It must be true that anybody else would do the same.
Interesting. Commenter Rich Rostrom points out:
Personnel managers have discovered the easiest way to find potential thief/employees: ask them if they have stolen from a previous employer. Most thieves believe "everybody does it", and that claiming otherwise is obvious hypocrisy. So they confess to minor thefts, expecting a favorable response to this "honesty".
If a potential spouse says, of theft, or other serious offense, "everybody does it" - red flag time!
Job interviews are full of unhelpful-sounding questions like "Describe the worst mistake you ever made and how you recovered from it." Basically decent people have trouble coming up with appropriate answers. I think that these questions are designed to weed out people with severe problems. There's a pretty wide gulf between "Ummmm... I guess it would be the time I made a clerical error that cost our company a few thousand dollars in fines" and "That's an interesting question. I would say it was when I violated that protection order that my last boss filed against me."
However, I do strongly dislike the idea of having some sort of institutionalized system whereby there is some sort of family- size-and-responsibility-modifier on everyone's compensation plan. This seems to strip the breadwinner of his traditional dignity as a person responsible for finding a way to earn enough to have a family, and for to continue to support his family once he has one. Instead, the head of household now goes to his boss, hat in hand, and says, "Excuse me sir. My wife and I are expecting again, and so I wonder if perhaps I could make a little more." The breadwinner is no longer the head of his or her household -- the breadwinner's employer is.
Paying people according to how useful their work (and potential and knowledge) is to the company may not be a perfect system, but in many ways it continues to echo the ancient calculus that humans have had to perform ever since they were told, "By the sweat of your brow shall you earn your bread, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken."