Rewriting History

No, I’m not talking about writing.  I wish I were.  It is way safer.  And it doesn’t make me wake up screaming and pummeling the pillow with the fist of death.  (We go through pillows like you wouldn’t believe it.)

I’m talking about how we experience history – not just what we think of as “history” but also what we think of as personal history – and what really makes humans tick, which is not real history – i.e. what they’ve experienced – but convincing narration.

I used to have near eidetic memory – I didn’t know this, until my husband informed me of it.  To me it was just memory – until I gave myself severe concussion thirteen years ago.  What I mean is that it was a total puzzle to me why people needed memo pads or calendars, and most people, even my friends, annoyed me by telling me the same story more than once or by engaging in what I called “rewriting history.”

That last part I now understand – having looked at life from both sides now, as it were – is often not intentional.  In fact, I have to tell you that I was considerably more neurotic when I could remember everything in sharp relief and unblinblinking.  In fact, I had to remember everything in sharp relief and unblinking.  This meant I couldn’t soften the edges of my own mistakes, or attribute to myself less obnoxious motives than what had operated at the real time, and definitely there wasn’t room for the comforting “I meant to mess that shot, ah ah” even ten years down the road.

This meant I lived with the unflinching memory of my own short comings.  I’ve come to think much more highly of myself now that my past sort of blurs together.  But I also find myself clustering events according to what I now believe were logical impulses and/or changing what I was thinking at the time to a more flattering or less culpable form of twerpitude.  What I mean is if I’m faced with something written at that time, I often realize my memory is way too kind to myself.

Most humans are like this, and therefore most humans’ internal narration of the past is flawed in a way that allows them to live with themselves – it also is what really drives them.  The driving motor of the world is NOT what really happened but what the most convincing and pleasing narration tells us happened.

My mom was the keeper of the narration in the household, and it drove me bananas in terms of “rewriting history” which, of course, at the time, I thought was intentional, but I now see it was notional, because I do it with my own kids.  “One of the kids used to like such and such, now which one? – Oh, yes, it must have been Robert because—”

One of the things that my mom annoyed me madly about was saying that when I was little I used to get car sick.  This drove me bananas.  Even now, as an adult, I’ve got car sick exactly three times, two aggravated by lack of sleep and having coffee on an empty stomach, and one after having drunk a great deal too much (which for me is an amazing quantity.  No, trust me.)

But as a kid, the fact my brother got car sick and I didn’t got interpreted – as just about everything in which we differed – as a badge of adulthood on his part.  I did everything including try to unfocus my eyes to make myself sick and/ or hit my head against things.  It didn’t work.

However my mom says – and is convinced of – I made our early car trips unbearable because they had to stop all the time for me to be car sick.  This makes perfect sense if you factor in the biases: one of her kids got car sick.  My brother was older and male.  I was female and very sickly anyway.  So it must be me.  It fits the narration better than the truth does, so it has become part of the myth, and other people in the family (though of course not my brother!) believe it and refer to it as though it happened.  They think my brother and I are insane for insisting otherwise.

This was my first exposure to how the power of the myth that fits is what shapes people’s beliefs of what happened, more than reality which they experienced at least peripherally (i.e. – they were there at the time).

Later I experienced this in funnier ways.  There was a lady who did the turn of pre-school/kindergarten teacher in the village – though not really, because she taught reading, writing and arithmetic, to kids as young as three, and yep, it was strictly disciplined.  What had happened was that the government had got shirty about ages of going into school and there were official birth certificates and everything, beyond the mere “Well, I reckon my little Antonio must be about seven, because he was born three years before the great storm which brought down the oak tree” – which was normal in my dad’s time.  Well, the villagers were used to their kids  — those of families thus inclined – going to school when the parents thought they were ready to read and cypher, and found it inconvenient to prolong early childhood because the government said so.  So at three or four, or when we started to show an interest in knowing how to do things, they would pack us off and send us to Dona Maria, who lived in a cottage at the edge of the village and who was the remnant of the pre-official schooling in the region.  And then at six or seven or whenever they were allowed (being born in November, I couldn’t go till seven) they packed us off to “official” school.  (Some of the reason to teach you earlier was that many of the farmers needed their kids to start manning the selling of produce and dairy at an early age, and to be able to keep records.  The same with women who worked at home bringing their daughters into the job by ten or so – when they left fourth grade.  Childhood was considered an uneeded luxury for most of the village, even if I got to have a rather idyllic Tom-Sawyerish one.)

I didn’t learn Dona Maria’s history till much later but it would be familiar to anyone who reads regencies – though of course it took place at least a hundred years after. – She was a young woman of “good families” who fell for a “rake” probably a married one, and ran away with him… to this nowhere village, where he bought her a cottage and established her as his “convenient” until he got tired of her.  At which point she traded on the fact that she knew how to read and write – rather well – and how to teach fine work – embroidery, lace, crochet – to the girls in the village, and made a very meager living from this (I mean, half the time she was paid in potatoes or leftovers.  She liked having my family in, because we had “real jobs” outside the village and paid in cash.)  [I’m not sure, by the way, how it slates with my own great aunt who was schoolmistress before her, quitting the business.  I suspect my aunt left it in her forties or so, when her husband was finally doing well enough that she didn’t NEED to teach.  She taught my dad who is now eighty, but my aunt had to be in her forties or later because she was much older than my grandmother –and I’m going to guess Dona Maria was twenty or thirty years older than my dad, because she died in her eighties, about twenty five years ago.  As an example of history no one thought it important to tell me, I can’t be sure, but I’m going to guess Dona Maria stepped into “village schoolmistress” when aunt Laura either decided it wasn’t worth it, or had already retired.]  Anyway, the old lady died respected and respectable in her eighties twenty five years ago.  BUT before she died, I met her on the street a year or so after I got married – that this hadn’t happened in about 20 years or so is actually explainable as she lived mostly in the upper village and my parents’ house is in the lower village, compounded by the fact that she used to work all day, and I wasn’t out in the evening.  She called me over, very excited to see me, and there was one of those awkward conversations old teachers have with you (which considering she brought me to grandma after a few months and told grandma to teach me herself, could get VERY awkard, trust me on this.)  Weirdly, she didn’t mention my decidedly checkered past, and instead went into how she remembered my brother and my cousin Natalia and I “all being little together” and how we used to play around the village.  Guys, my cousin is 14 years older than I, my brother is 9 years older than I.  Even they didn’t “play” as such together.  They hung out a lot as teens, but that’s not the same.  And the idea of the three of us (all three bookish, though my cousin and I had broad streaks of hellion) gamboling through the fields of the village like puppies could only occur to someone who no longer remembered us but who fit us somewhere in her own myth.

So, what does this have to do with anything?

Well, this is far more complex when it comes to national myths.  And part of the national myth they’re trying to institute has failed, but another is taking remarkable hold, and it worries me, because I’ve seen this play before.

It was easier to establish a national myth back when there were no dissenting voices, but just the main stream.  So, for instance, when Clinton was elected, I watched the Reagan years being turned into a decade of greed, when working people went in rags, while the millionaires sipped champagne off street urchin’s belly buttons.  Or something.

I was there.  I lived through it.  The eighties were more “the decade when we shut up and went back to work.”  Yes, there were excesses, but nothing to compare to the 90s.  Mostly, there was renewed faith in shutting up, taking baths and going to work.  And it worked.

So did the myth making.  Suddenly it was all about “caring” and “caring” was going to get us out of the hole (!) caused by the “decade of greed” (and not by the George H. W. Bush tax increase.)

That type of myth is not taking hold as well – they’re trying, and you can see it with the “Summer of recovery.”  The MSM – even those you wouldn’t expect.  Yes, I’m looking at you WSJ – all jumped in the first year, and the second and the third, and are still talking like “of course we’re in a recovery.”  But you listen to conversations in line at the grocery store.  No one is buying it.

OTOH… OTOH it’s taking hold in a weird way in wonkish cycles.  I’m so tired of hearing nonsense like “in real terms middle class salaries haven’t increased in 30 years.”  There’s lies, damn lies and statistics.  What are they considered “middle class”?  Because in thirty years I’ve seen that change, and besides it wasn’t that clear to begin with.  Are retail clerks middle class?  Retail managers?  Garage mechanics? Computer programmers?

It’s pretty hard to track that over a drastic tech change, which we’ve undergone.  Look at it this way – when Dan started out in computers (programming in machine language, which he learned when it became clear that the only path for a mathematician was academia and that he was sick of college) it was a pioneering field, even though it was twenty years old or so.  If we met someone and he told them what he did (in Charlotte, NC, granted) he got the “Oh, you’re one of them.  The fad will pass.”  Now, I’d say most of the “middle class” – skilled and semi-skilled — works with computers in some capacity.

Retail clerks and managers can only be considered middle class on a case by case basis.  Because what happened is that what is “middle” shifted.  There are very few manual laborers and factory workers, which I assumed were “working class” thirty years ago.  Instead, most retail and low-level service has fallen to “working class.”  And since their salaries have fallen in real terms (My friends in retail make now what they made 30 years ago. Blame out of control low-skill immigration) that actually means that if you count them as middle class, middle class “real salaries” have fallen.

But that’s not what most people think of when they read “middle class.”  They think programmers and teachers, writers and specialized repairmen.  And for those – I’ve been there, okay – salaries have risen IN REAL TERMS until about 2008 when they have been falling – again in real terms – at an amazing clip due to the inflation we’re told we don’t have.

Why this concerns me – even smart people who think for themselves are falling for this.  It’s easier to lie at a distance and with statistics.  It’s easier for people to go “Oh, well, it seemed like the eighties were so much fun, but I guess some people, over there, were really starving and I didn’t see it.”  And debt wonks, who don’t like the growth of our debt (I don’t either) over the last thirty years, are all too eager to believe this nonsense.  No, guys, we made a lot.  We just spent a lot more.  However, most of it was just flushed away, because that’s what government does with money.

Why this is important – because I’m seeing another myth fall neatly into place.  I’ve caught whispers of it.  It’s called the “This is bad, but ten years ago was much worse.”  This isn’t true, it isn’t true in any way that doesn’t involve the kidnapping, handcuffing and rape of statistical science.  And it’s not being said out loud yet, but it’s whispered.  That way in another two or three years, as collective memory fades, it can be brought out as “everyone knows” and you’ll remember the whispers… And it will seem plausible.

If I sound like I’m crazy because I think someone is coordinating this, remember Journolist.  Of course someone is. A lot of someone’s.  And it doesn’t need to be a central directive, just the human drive to make us look good to ourselves and a faulty memory.  If these people supported the most economically disastrous regime this country has ever seen, they’d be ashamed.  Fortunately they don’t need to be.  They can tell themselves “it was worse before.”

I’ve seen this happen in Europe year by year whenever socialists are in power.  It was always worse before.  Even when it wasn’t.  But the majority of people don’t remember and they want a “rational” or at least “inspiring” narration and “we’re repairing the mess we inherited” is inspiring.  “We’re pissing fifty years of accumulated capital and international relations away” isn’t.

This is why in socialist countries, you always know what the future will hold.  It’s the past that keeps changing.  And we’ve always been at war with Eurosia.  And dear leader has the rudder firmly in his hands, as he pilots us to the bright future of Utopia.

343 thoughts on “Rewriting History

    1. Heck, there’s a narrative going around — especially aimed at high schoolers and college students — that says we’re insanely religious to the point where atheists aren’t legally allowed to marry in eight states. Yes, I’ve heard educated youngsters (went to good high school in California, got accepted to MIT) say that, with other youngsters backing them up. It isn’t true, it’s transparently not true, it’s easy to check on Google to verify that this is not true, you can’t even point to ONE state where atheists aren’t allowed to marry. (Maybe some churches would tell you to go elsewhere, but that’s entirely different from “it’s illegal for atheists to marry”.) But this is what the graduates of \emph{good} Californian high schools believe.

      …and people wonder why there’s a sudden uptick in “how do I homeschool?” queries.

      1. Sudden uptick, Susan?

        Take a look at – if you can find it – number of private schools registered in the U.S. by year. Circa 1965, not many .. mostly Catholics*. Circa 1975 and thereafter, it doubles every couple years until .. I think it plateaued in the 1990s.. and it’s all across the board, some religious, some prep, some just-because.

        Education in this country has been going downhill ever since the Department of Education became a federal agency .. which makes complete sense once you realize the point of the department is to *deflect responsibility* off the local schools.

        The good news is, education is going to follow book publishing, which followed travel agencies as one of the next areas to be disrupted by the internet. The bad news is, a lot of parents have NO CLUE what’s ahead.

        Mew

    2. Witch hunts! McCarthy! Blacklists!

      Never mind that the witches — er, communist infiltrators — were real. (Whittaker Chambers’ “Witness” is a fine book on that subject, both as a memoir and as history.)

      1. Period books are a measure all their own. They not only provide reliable documentation of the public’s perception of an era (Sarah has previously discussed the utility of popular fiction, such as mysteries, for understanding the quotidian lives) but they provide an indisputable measure of such things as vocabulary, grammar and attention span of its target market. Many a Victorian children’s book would prove challenging to adult readers of today.

        1. Indeed. I have no problem with a book that’s a fast read, but there’s a lot to be said for the more ponderous and florid styles of the past. The brain needs a workout now and then.

  1. 1. Brilliant post. Don’t have time to comment just now, but the discussion deserves to be prolonged and vigorous. Later.

    2. Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past. As you note, manipulation of the past can be deliberate, or it can be unconscious herd behavior.

    3. OT: I’m wondering if the effects on creativity of getting your memory futzed up were perhaps not all bad, but mixed.

  2. We’ve had an interesting discussion over in Kratskeller regarding memory. Tom made some interesting observations, and I hope this will entice him to share – but it is relevant that every time a human *recalls* memory, they erase it. Once they are done with the recall, it is rewritten. The problems is that during the rewrite, extraneous details are added.

    When we form memory, the first thing we do is to repeat the info in short term memory until we can transfer it to long-term memory. Neuroscientists call this “consoldiation.” Unused memory doesn’t so much *decay* over time, as it becomes hard to find the associations and “tags” that we used to locate it. So each time a memory is used, it gets “reconsolidated” to update and strengthen the associations.

    About the only time we don’t have to repeat and consolidate memory is when it accompanies an emotional, traumatic or painful event. That memory gets transferred to long-term storage pretty easily, and is often called “Flashbulb Memory.” Ask a person what they were doing on 9/11 and they can usually tell you in minute detail – everything from where they were when they saw or heard about the WTC being hit by aircraft, to what they ate for breakfast. The problem is, scientists have found out that much of that memory is false, and derives from the environment and events surrounding each time they tell people of their flashbulb memory.

    Hence, it is not at all surprising that as humans we edit history to suit imperfect memory, it is because we have already edited the memory. Sarah gets blamed for being carsick for the exact reasons she states – *someone* got carsick, Sarah was sickly, therefore Sarah was the one. It is less a failure of memory as a contamination – and even then, it is a contamination of *association,* and not the memory itself.

    There is a theory (that I don’t buy into) that *all* memory is made up of “confabulations” – i.e. we remember the internal narrative that we create from our witness of events. Memories are then simply composed of the details that are *convenient*. While I don’t agree to this theory with respect to ordinary human memory, it certainly seems to reflect institutional memory of our modern age. The shame of it all is when we allow our institutions of recorded *facts* to become corrupted by the Political Correctness of reconsolidation – editing our history to fit a narrative, and not the reality.

    1. Long-winded, isn’t he? (just kidding)

      So – you’re saying that memory is like an old reel-to-reel tape recorder?

      1. Memory doesn’t even record that well. It’s very unreliable; photography, and video were developed for a reason. 🙂

        1. Thing is, photography and video can “lie” to– in that they “say” different things than the thing they were recording.

          Look at a just-taken picture of the moon vs the scene itself– the moon looks much, much smaller in the picture.
          Ditto the famous “ten pounds” of a camera.

          Anything that you have to adapt for at the time it’s recording is not actually as objective as folks would want to believe.

          Can’t confuse one very specialized (though pretty stable) perspective for all perspectives.

          1. Drat, I forgot about Photoshop and video editing.

            But you don’t even need those. Simply taking a picture from a certain angle or perspective can convey a message.

            1. Angle, perspective, lighting and lens choice* all affect the image. This was the basis for much of Buster Keaton’s humour — the three dimensional illusions of a two-dimensional medium.

              *Longer lenses tend to flatten the image, reducing distance between foreground and background. Reportedly MGM had a standing rule that none of its glamour actresses should ever be shot with a lens of less than 40mm. A little vaseline on the lens also softened hard edges of the actresses’ faces.

              1. If you want an education on filmmaking, though, look up RedLetterMedia, specifically the Plinkett Star Wars and Indiana Jones reviews.

              2. On the other hand, I should be shot through a lens smeared with ichthammol ointment.
                (it is tarry black and opaque)

              3. Well, almost never vaseline. there were filters for that. Vaseline is bad for lens coatings.

                1. Maybe not using Vaseline* ( I believe the classic era cinematographers put it on filters, not directly on the lens), but soft focus is still very much in use – witness any reporting these days by Lesley Stahl, who while she may or may not be a valued journalistic contributor to CBS news and 60 Minutes*, is these days imaged pretty much exclusively in soft focus (especially in studio shots), as High Definition is not the friend of aging faces.

                  (Vaseline is a trademark for a petrolatum ointment made from petroleum owned by Conopco, Inc. 60 Minutes is a trademark for a television news program series owned by CBS Broadcasting, Inc. How’s that, RR, Esq.?)

                  1. How well I recall the industry panic when they first began experimenting with Hi-Def cameras and discovered their imagery cut right through the make-up, revealing every line, crease and blotchy eyelid of the on-camera hand-puppets, male and female. Fortunately they were already developing digital visualization technology which allowed them to selectively soften focus in specific areas of the image, saving American hoomes from the horrors of seeing our newscasters unvarnished faces on our 60″ home screens.

            2. The moon thing gives me the most trouble, though. 🙂

              I love the way that night scenes look… and in photos, the moon is ALWAYS too small. It doesn’t matter if I just took it and the moon looks like the sun, I look at the camera and the moon is a pinprick.

              1. The sun is pretty small, too. It just looks big near the horizon because your mind automatically adjusts for distance.

          2. Observed this the other day while playing with Google Streetview. It’s something you can see for yourself. Look up a place you’re familiar with — a street you travel daily. “Drive” around in it. Notice how much BIGGER the spaces are, how much smaller than the observer’s viewpoint are all the objects. It’s because the lens is very wide-angle with an incredible field of view, still compressed into what you see with your two eyes on a computer screen.

            And then, there’s the opposite, which you can see in cinematography — the long lens photographing twenty blocks of a city, making a bar sign two miles away look … right … HERE.

            M

      2. More like the old core memory that the 360 era computers used. Or even the dynamic ram that we use now. It is erased in the process of reading and must be rewritten immediatly afterwords. Dynamic ram is even worse. If it is not rewritten every two milliseconds, the information degrades.

    2. I was thinking of exactly this when I read Sarah’s piece.

      Or maybe that’s just my unreliable memory talking.

    3. I’m not sure I buy the “erased and rewritten” part, but associations certainly do get updated. My biggest problem is that my associations are usually very narrow, and it makes recalling things very difficult at times. Once the correct association comes up, the memory comes in clearly, but it can be very difficult to get that trigger to show up.

      1. Erased and rewritten actually comes from observation of the synapses between neurons. Several of the proteins in the synapse are broken apart and the synapse weakened, then the proteins are resynthesized and synapses strengthened again in the hours after the recall durign the “reconsolidation” phase. The evidence is there in the molecular and biology and gene products as well.

        1. That would be helpful if you are making a web of connections between facts and memories. As each datum(thingy) is taken off the shelf it is taken out of the sequence that it was stored in, and then restored in a new shelf with associated datum(thingumies) with new associated ideas that you can still build with. It allows you (me) to take a chance-heard conversation item out, correlate it with other datum(ies) and use it as a scaffold to build new thoughts and concepts on. Without that flexibility, you can only tabulate data and advance by reviewing what has happened before.

          1. That was incoherent.
            It would be useful to build new connections to old ideas as you make associations with new ideas or memories. It would allow you to build a scaffolding to support new concepts. Without that, new concepts would be hard to develop.

        2. So it is a bunch of assumptions all rolled up in a tidy conclusion…so long as no step along the line is incomplete– or, worse yet, wrong– it’ll be fairly accurate.

            1. No, so long as no step along the line was only a *PARTIAL* understanding.

              Science is full of them. It’s kinda fun, really.

        3. Hmm… based on my own hard-won knowledge of how my memory works (and doesn’t), a timespan of “hours” seems awfully long. I’m skeptical that the process could maintain cohesion over that period of time, if those proteins that are being broken down in the recall process are actually those making up the memory itself, and are not some sort of metadata or something. When I try to remember something deliberately, it takes significant effort over a period of time, and if I am distracted, it’s gone – if rebuilding a memory track takes hours after recall, I can’t imagine that I would not have lost some of them. Strangely, sometimes it’s significantly harder for me to deliberately record memories than others, and I have learned to tell when this is happening. I call it “getting traction”, because I can feel the “slipperiness” of the item I am trying to commit to memory, but I have not yet learned what causes it.

          1. You are mistaking temporary (short-term) memory with permanent (long-term) memory. Those are very distinct in both psychology and neuroscience. the hours long protein-synthesis dependent process is long-term memory. The erase-rewrite *does* use some shorter term processes such as repeating signals, changes in blood flow, reconfiguration of the neurons. The protein synthesis is used to make those permanent. Likewise, the protein breakdown does not completely erase the memory since those other mechanisms can still be in use. It’s more like opening and closing the lock. If you unlock the barn door in the morning and relock it at night – you may or may not have the same animals in it the next day.

            1. Interesting. I’ve asserted, for years now, that sleep deprivation caused by late-night child feedings is a feature, not a bug. Causes memories of living with the young child to be hazy overall, and not nearly as dreadful as they actually are .. which leads to wanting more children, and encouraging others to have more children.

              Mew

              1. Nah, that’s when they give that gummy smile and wiggle their heads a little before grabbing for anything in reach….

                Really bad sleep dep makes me forget stuff altogether, which MIGHT help avoid bad illnesses, but…..

                1. The gummy smile and wiggles provide the general positive memory of the era, the sleep deprivation makes it more fuzzy and hazy…

                  I suspect you had really bad sleep deprivation as you seem to not be remembering at all.

                  Mew

                  1. I have a three month old on my lap. Given the choice between someone else’s beliefs and my currently being formed memories, I’ll go with me……

                    1. You’re welcome to your memories, and I wish you and your little one all the best .. but as others have pointed out, memories ain’t all that accurate. Especially when the brain they’re writing to is sleep-deprived.

                      Mew

    4. Very interesting!

      I’ve heard of experimental volunteers having total recall of arbitrary events (they don’t get to choose which memory) when certain parts of the brain are stimulated with electricity. But of course that doesn’t invalidate what you said. Still, it seems that the truth is out there — or in there.

      1. I know the work – the problem is that the memory has not been validated for accuracy – the subject remembers with great detail, but if there are false memories included, those will come out as well. Very much like flashbulb memory when it comes to veracity.

          1. Only if you consider data accuracy of higher value than malleability. There are significant benefits to inaccurate memory, although I cannot at present recall what they would be.

            1. As my dad likes to say, “I have a mind like a steel trap: it’s rusty and half the teeth are missing.”

  3. 😦
    Something to keep an eye out for.

    Upside: there are so many blogs, we may be able to flip over, point and say “No, you’re full of it.”

    1. This is why people do screen captures — not only do we catch them spewing nonsense, we catch them trying to kick sand over it.

  4. Well, the villagers were used to their kids — those of families thus inclined – going to school when the parents thought they were ready to read and cypher, and found it inconvenient to prolong early childhood because the government said so.

    On my blog, I have a post on my view of schooling.

  5. Yes– I have lived on two sides of memory (chemo really killed my association tags) and now my memory is hit or miss… Sometimes I remember clearly and sometimes I remember only bits and pieces. I remember better when I write now.

    As for the “it is better now than ten years ago” bull-hockey pucks. Ten years ago was 2003, and we were doing rather well until I became sick with the disease– we were even able to pay all our medical bills. The hubby was in that select group of repair techies… now the pay for those fields have dropped to just a couple of dollars above minimum wage. Those fields have now lost the “middle-class” status. Unfortunately when I look at the jobs today, plus the jobs being created, the middle-class has been squashed to almost nothing.

    1. Losing the middle class is a scary thought. When there’s nothing left but the rich and the poor, it’s a simple step to Nobles and Peasants. Or High Party Members and “Citizens,” in the modern way of things.

      1. One could almost think that was the intent in the first place. You have your self-appointed ‘elites’, and you have the commoners – and the elites will be damned if they’ll do anything that might make the lot of the common man better… but they’ll ‘help’ him out no end.

        1. All leftist regimes are rewrites of feudalism. Dave Freer opened my eyes to this and then asked “why do you think all descendants of noble families are communist, in Europe and Africa. They know it’s their way back to power, the way to stop the rabble from infringing their ‘class’ privileges.” I love Dave, but sometimes I hate him. He has the bleak habit of being right about unpalatable truths. It was the only thing that explained that phenomenon. All sons and daughters of “good families” in Portugal are extreme left.

          1. Eh, Jews are also fond of it. Also the Lebanese and the Chinese in countries where they are middlemen minorities. There’s a difference.

          2. I guess I am too far away from my noble roots lol or the wandering gene overpowers it because I want to be FREE… 😉 Another part of my gene set is the need to travel. I satisfy it by getting the hubby to drive a few days and then drive back home… it is just enough. I believe that if I went to the moon, in a year I would be yearning for another trip– maybe MARS? It’s in the genes (or jeans… not sure).

              1. Here I was worried about my gray roots. Dang, if I had to contend with roots gone-a-viking, I don’t know how I’d cope!

                  1. Mine were gray for awhile, but this year they are blonde again (more gold than blonde) *patting my hair happily… and I didn’t have to dye ’em

                1. Yup, I was looking for something for my beard and there it was – between the Miss Clairol and Just for Men – I think it was called Odin’s Beard…

    2. Yeah, my brother joined the Navy at that point– folks were calling him nuts because the job market was so good, so why was a “smart guy like you” going into that?!? And there was fighting going on!

      1. Yes– if I hadn’t gotten sick, we would probably be contracting (military contracting) in Eastern Europe. 🙂 I knew people who were making tons of money in isolated tours as civilians…

      2. Yeah, my brother joined the Navy at that point– folks were calling him nuts because the job market was so good, so why was a “smart guy like you” going into that?!? And there was fighting going on!

        Ah, yes. The persistent myth that US enlistees are mostly poor people who couldn’t get anything better. These are the latest numbers I could find, seeing as how the Census was that year as well. It should disprove that notion.

        1. What, you think people will let a silly thing like facts get in the way of their bigotry?

          1. It is commonplace for people to mistake accent for intelligence. Say something with a Southern accent (you reading this, Doc Travis?) and people will down-shift your estimated IQ by a good 10 – 20%. Employ sesquipedalian language options and complex grammatical structures while speaking in an upper-crust Boston accent and you will be awarded significant bonus IQ even when (especially when) the listener has no idea what you’ve said.

            A strong Long Island or New Jersey accent is similarly disabling.

            1. I’ve heard it’s even worse in England, especially since practically every valley and town had its own accent.

            2. “Employ sesquipedalian language options and complex grammatical structures while speaking in an upper-crust Boston accent and you will be awarded significant bonus IQ ”

              Except of course if you see it to me; I will automatically downshift your estimated IQ 50% and consider that a high estimate.

              1. Oh well. I’ll suppose I’ll have to live with it. That’s my vocabulary.

                I’m amazed at the number of people who think I know which words they don’t know.

            3. Oh my heck. (Yes, I’ve been head down in software documentation for two days, and have about five more minutes to breath before heading back in there.)

              But I had to hop in and say a) still alive, b) send root beer and Twizzlers, and c) Oh, how I love Doc Travis, and his ability to explain quantum physics concepts in that awesome accent of his. (also loved his collaboration with Ringo – the Looking Glass War books)

              1. I’m cursed with finding a Southern accent sexy. How I ended up married to someone from CT is… no, it isn’t a question — he dazzled me with math, but…

              2. Beloved Spouse, who grew up in Center City Philadelphia, hears Chris Matthews’ accent and snorts “Idiot!”

                Thus proving that sometimes correlation produces accurate results.

          2. Good point. When someone makes up their mind to attack you (and invents complex rationalizations for doing so), there’s no point trying to reason with them because they’ve already pronounced you guilty.

            1. Remember, man is not a reasoning being. He is a rationalizing being. Some of us can overcome our innate shortcomings and think. The rest become liberals.

            2. I have long held the opinion that a major basis for Antisemitism is that Jews keep their own books. Rulers don’t tend to like people able to contradict their opinions.

              Being able to challenge their facts really ticks them off.

              1. Another theory on it was that after the fall of the temple, when you could no longer offer the sacrifices and prove you were a good Jew but had to study the Torah — Jews congregated in the professions where literacy was a financial advantage, and enough of one to fund Torah-study. (This happened both because Jews moved to the occupations, and because illiterates drifted away from Judaism.) Unfortunately, these were the “middleman minority” occupations, which tend to be hated regardless of which minority it is.

    3. No, it definitely is better now than it was ten years ago … for certain values of “better.” Forexample, the Liberals are back in charge after that horrible Reagan and (shudder) Gingrich fiasco, and “Liberals In Charge” is objectively better by the standards of Liberals, and since they are the enlightened and more intelligent ones, they would know.

      The reason we rely on data rather than anecdata is in the latter instance we know that our sample sizes are too small and not representative of the broader population. The problem with the former is that it is highly subject to manipulation both inadvertent and advertent, As Twain observed: Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics.

  6. When I was younger, I can remember several instances of “that’s not what happened.” *chuckle* A lot of people I know do it still, including me. But I remember a lot of my mistakes with that kind of painful clarity still, and that can drive a body to distraction very quickly.
    I remember (and I even looked it up, so shush) on the Bar recently Speaker posted something (fourth post down the first page) about how false memories are formed, easy enough when you repeat the falsehood with the memory. And if it “makes sense” with whatever personal narrative you follow, like the sickly child being the carsick one, it gets harder to separate the real from the implanted.

    Also I remember helping on a psych study in college where we confirmed (again) that peer consensus can affect perception. If you’re staring at a blue spot on the wall, then six other people come in and call it green, a lot of people remembered a green spot on the wall when questioned about it later. Everybody knows global warming, nationalized healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, etc… There’s a lot of myths being thrown around these days that are rather painful to see. The spend our way out of depression, no I mean recession, no I mean what recession, we’re recovering! That one’s a big one.

    The somebodys writing the narrative have a following like I remember seeing the Occupy crowd. And one huge crowd microphone to echo their every word.

    1. But I remember a lot of my mistakes with that kind of painful clarity still, and that can drive a body to distraction very quickly.

      My most vivid memories are tied to things which caused me embarrassment or grief, and other memories don’t stay very well. I fear that if I live long enough, my memory will be nothing but grief and humiliation, and am currently working on ways to deflect the worst ones into the background, or at least blunt their impact when I remember them.

      1. “My most vivid memories are tied to things which caused me embarrassment or grief”

        I won’t say that’s universally true in my case, but applied to me it’d still be more true than not.

        It certainly doesn’t make life any more pleasant.

    2. Also I remember helping on a psych study in college where we confirmed (again) that peer consensus can affect perception. If you’re staring at a blue spot on the wall, then six other people come in and call it green, a lot of people remembered a green spot on the wall when questioned about it later.

      Sounds more like audio memory vs visual memory.

      I tell folks I have a horrible memory for names– and it’s true. If the names are given in a day-to-day situation where they SAY their name.

      Meanwhile, I had no problems remembering names in the Navy, because I read it on their shirts, and if I also wrote out something for them… easy-peasy.

      I’ll bet in the dot experiment, they were told to watch the dot, folks came in and called it green, and later they were asked about it– rather than being asked what color it was, then other folks stating otherwise and later asking them about the color.

      1. I think the name thing is a matter of repetition. Even when reading I tend to skip over names so it generally takes me a couple of chapters to actually associate the name with a character (also why I can’t read Russian literature, the names are too similar for me to figure out who’s doing what). When you see someone’s name every time you see them you get that reinforcement.

        Of course, now I’m a civilian I have to add another translation layer. “It’s Hernandez.” “No, wait, we’re both civilians. It’s Wes.”

        1. It really does depend a lot on the person– I tried the “say their name three times” trick, it didn’t work for me.

          But if I see it and/or write it? WAY more likely. If there’s a story associated with the name? Absolutely going to remember.

          1. Yeah, the Hernandez guy is the one who helped me figure out a turbine generator can get almost to the point of loading with absolutely no cooling water. Not going to forget him.

        2. THIS is why writers should NEVER have the same letter at the beginning of characters’ names. It’s worse in translation. For years American names with weird letters (when I was growing up, Portuguese lacked the W K and Y so I had no idea how to pronounce them. Yes, that’s changed) got classed as Ythingythingything g Instead of Young, say. So writers who had Mrs. Yang and Mr. Young dove me BANANAS.

  7. 10 years ago? Well, my main thought 10 years ago was “things are getting better for the country, and I’m going to keep praying that some of it happens to me”. Now? Precisely the opposite: “my life’s pretty good, actually, but I’m having to work pretty hard to even imagine a way that America is going to get itself out of this nightmare…I just hope my own situation doesn’t collapse, because if it does, things are going to get really dire really fast, and they probably won’t ever get any better, because no one will ever be able to help me again”.

  8. An example of attempted history rewriting that I just stumbled across:

    Read http://jalopnik.com/how-much-can-cnn-get-wrong-about-f1-engines-physics-in-1111423405 first. Now click over to the CNN article in question and notice how the offending sentence is nowhere to be found in the (current version of) the article. Did the Jalopnik author make it up? Well, if you read the comments, you’ll notice lots of people commenting shortly after the article was published, quoting that sentence and making fun of the authors. Then about sixteen hours later, someone writes “Hee hee. I see the article was stealth edited/corrected to take out that parts that made the writer, and CNN, look like luddites admiring a steam engine. Crap Not News.”

    So CNN screwed up on basic fact-checking, and attempted to rewrite history to cover their tracks. And this is on a subject where there are verifiable FACTS, and people don’t let their political biases get in the way. But clearly I can trust them to get the political stuff right. I mean after all, this is CNN.

    … Let’s see, what was the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, again?

    1. Ah yes. Gell-Mann Effect – not amnesia as such, but a tendency to give more credence to the statements of individuals presumed to be experts. Persons have an inflated view of the accuracy of other people’s statements. Those who know nothing think they know more than they do until faced with evidence of an expert – at which point they tend to think that the expert knows more about *everything* and not just the specific field.

      The “G-M Amnesia” effect is that a person can encounter information that they *know* is false due to their own expertise, then change the context and “forget” that they’ve just demonstrated the unreliability of that source. Thus, a College Prof can read a newspaper article about a historical event – *know* that the facts are wrong, then turn the page and take the next article as gospel truth.

      1. I am not going to search it out but Michael Crichton had a terrific description of precisely that process in one of his later novels. I have seen it quoted multiple times over the years.

        The first rule of consuming news is that they are called news stories for a reason. Every single one of them represents a story that some person or organization wants you to believe. Any correlation to the truth is incidental.

        1. In checking to make sure I had the right description, my search turned up Crichton’s quote.

    2. Not to mention the other Big Lie in the article: That F1 is a “major racing series” anywhere besides “places where the FIA has a monopoly on motorsports”. Hint: How big is F1 in America? (Also note: How many Americans have there been in F1 in the past 30 years? “Not Our Kind, Dear.”)

  9. “This is bad, but ten years ago was much worse.”

    What-what-what??!? My head is trying very hard to spin around on my shoulders. Fortunately, it hasn’t managed that yet, and it’s simply vibrating.

    Granted, if it weren’t for medical bills, I would be in the best financial status of my life right now, but that’s not because the country’s situation has gotten better, it’s because I have built my skills over the past 15 years, after a long hiatus in manual-labor-land right out of college.

    1. Let’s see. Ten years ago was before I started getting SS Disability and wasn’t able to find a job. On the other hand, Mom wasn’t as bad mentally ten years ago as she is now and Dad was alive.

      So it’s probably a “wash” comparing “ten years ago” and today. [Sad Smile]

      1. Damn it…. I wasn’t even thinking about the “who was around” stuff.

        I could’ve said by to my grandmas… and Fred… and kept Nancy from going with the son that (unverified belief) murdered her when she was sick….

        It’s a damn good thing that I don’t have time travel. The pile of bodies would be impressive.

      2. Thomas Sowell writes extensively on the illusion resulting from analysis of arbitrary categories, such as class or percentile. These problems become especially troublesome when the purpose is to obscure rather than clarify.

        To make a statement about “the Middle Class” is to assume that there is no class mobility. A grad student is (by definition) poor, thus in the bottom 20% economically. Once he completes his medical degree and internship he is on his way to having a very nice income indeed, very likely to reach the “upper middle class” — higher if he is a good investor or is able to invent a useful device, such as an artificial heart valve. Upon retirement he draws down his savings, reporting little income and “returning” to the bottom 20% of income even while sitting atop significant accumulated wealth. Studies based upon “class photos” taken along the way would not show his arc and essentially assume that his voyage through the classes is offset by others at different stages of the same voyage or, say, inheriting significant wealth (top quintile) and squandering it over a period to end up in the bottom quintile.

        Similarly, life expectancy loses meaning when it is defined for the populatiion as a whole. It is only meaningful when you can look at it and say: for people who have reached X age, Y number of additional years of life can be expected. None of which matters tomorrow when a drunk runs up onto the sidewalk and kills you.

        1. I believe our ‘elite’ think there is no such thing as economic mobility. Having worked by way up from poverty-level income in the ’80s to a comfortable middle-class life now, I know there is such a thing if you’re willing to work hard and learn how to do things that employers want.

          But the ‘elite’ look on life as a snapshot of the moment. Where you are at 20 is where you’ll be at 50 – your condition is static and unchangeable, and must be supplemented by the kindness of government handouts.

          And they’re supposed to be smart. Right…

    2. Ten years ago I was flying part time still, going to school more than full time, and looking forward to a guaranteed job with retirement and benefits, and in my own apartment. Now? Better my [redacted gerund redacted noun].

      1. Ten years ago, or I think ten years ago last March, I was making more (actual money, not adjusted income) AND working for an outfit that provided a vehicle, a all expenses paid house, all fuel for said vehicle, and $100 a week per diem. Of course about ten years ago I had saved enough to build my current house for cash without going into debt and gave them my two weeks notice and moved. All in all I am happier now, and get by the way I choose to quite well, but I couldn’t go back to where I was ten years ago if I wanted to. The couple of guys I worked with who are still working there are currently getting the SAME wages they were then, with the extra benefits I mentioned being severely cut, and their hours cut.

    3. Ten years ago I was starting my current job with a city school system and three years into my IT career. I had just bought a house. I didn’t think I’d die rich, but after one failed career, and a couple of years living with relatives and bouncing from one temp job to another while getting retrained, just being able to pay my bills and put some money aside made me think I’d caught the brass ring.

      Today? Same house, but I’m living from paycheck to paycheck and have to postpone some needed work on the siding and electrical system. Same job. Work load’s up because staff reductions have left us with what we would have considered a skeleton crew ten years ago. Raises have been frozen for five-going-on-six years, and benefits are being chipped away. We still have our priorities straight, though: the superintendent got a nice raise last year. I’m becoming acutely aware of how many BMWs and Benzes are parked at the Admin building every day.

      1. Workload is up for every one who still has a job. Even me and I’m self-employed. in my case it comes with a built in raise, since I get paid per-piece. But for the people in regular jobs — nyet. So my increased income barely keeps us where we were five years ago or not quite because of the extra large chunk taxes takes off me as a second income and self-employed.
        Food has gone up — the reported inflation is a joke — the boys are still living with us because we didn’t have the money to pay for college away and because local jobs suck. And my car will need to be replaced. This is my goal from reissuing my old books. We’ll see.

        1. I forgot to mention cars. Ten years ago I had a 7-year-old Saturn sedan that was paid off and got pretty good (I thought) mpg. One year later it was totaled in an accident. Today I have a 9-year-old Saturn sedan that’s paid off, but it’s got 200,000 miles on it (my commute more than doubled two years ago when I was reassigned to a site further from home) and replacement parts are getting pricey. Next car will have to be used; I’ll never be able to swing payments on a new one with my budget. On the plus side, I have taught myself how to do some chores (oil change, spark plugs, etc.) myself.

        2. “. So my increased income barely keeps us where we were five years ago or not quite because of the extra large chunk taxes takes off me as a second income and self-employed.”

          Yes, self-employment taxes are highway robbery.

        1. And I am reminded of how very, very lucky I am every third Saturday of the month, when I help out at the church food pantry. I’ve never found a better vaccine against self-pity

  10. I’m 66. Let me give you my take on identifying low/middle/upper class by possessions that has been unchanging all my life. You can do this with almost any class of possessions but lets do table ware.

    Poor people have a mish mash of different silverware in the drawer. They may have to use kitchen forks or knives at the table to serve the rare turkey etc. The quality of kitchen knives is very low. Dishes and glasses are mismatched. Alcohol is served in just about anything including coffee cups. A table cloth depends heavily on ethnicity. If the chairs all match the table they probably have chromed legs and vinyl covers. Butter may be left out to be soft on a plate. Margarine is more likely. Instant coffee is in the jar on the table.

    Middle class may have an entire place setting of the same stainless steel silverware, but likely not matching serving pieces, and still use cooking utensils for certain functions at the table. Kitchen knives may be in a block as a set but nobody has any idea how to sharpen them. Mixed plates and cups are still everyday. There may be a special set of matched china or stoneware used for holidays or company. It may be avoided now because it is metal trimmed and can’t be used in the microwave. Alcohol is served in beer mugs or generic wine glasses, but not special glasses for each sort of wine, and a few shot glasses but no specialized bar glasses. A plastic table cloth may be changed for cloth on special occasions. The table and chairs may match, but they are cheap veneer. Butter is in a cover dish on the table. Instant coffee is in the cupboard.

    Upper class has matching dishes for everyday. Correlle is likely for everyday. Plus a heritage set of China inherited and fancy special dishes just for Christmas/seasonal/ ethnic celebrations. Silverware is a matched set with possible serving pieces. A set of real silver is owned for special occasions. It isn’t used for everyday unless you are rich. Kitchen knives are expensive and lethal. You discuss whether an Asian edge is to be preferred sharpening them. Alcohol is almost always served in proper glasses. If someone wants a Manhattan you know what glass it goes in. Same with red wine or sweet. You own Champagne flutes. The table is solid wood and had a pad made to fit on top. There is a floral arrangement or porcelain on it when not in use. You may own silver but it is plate and likely rarely used. It was a gift and kept stored. You don’t own Sterling and use it unless you are rich. Butter is kept refrigerated and instant coffee is an emergency back up in case you run out of your favorite Sumatran blend. If you drink Kona estate or Blue Mountain for everyday you are rich.

    As pointed out the income needed for each life style may vary over decades. For fun do this with cars, shoes, sports equipment, furniture, health care, and Mistress keeping.

    1. Not sure where that leaves me, Mac. We have stoneware for everyday, a special set for holidays and inherited china. We have a matched set of Oneida with all serving pieces for everyday, and a sterling set inherited that never leaves the box. Butter is refrigerated and we have both a Keurig and instant coffee. We have vinyl placemats and a discount table in the kitchen. Dining Room table (that is never used) is solid wood with a pad. I have no idea what alcohol goes in what glasses, except for two scotch glasses. Kitchen knives are in a block and haven’t been replaced or sharpened in 15 years.

      I have a good job and good salary, but grew up distinctly middle class (BTW, Mom and Dad have & do pretty much the same as we do.) By some standards we are *rich* but my income was below poverty level for more than 10 years.

      1. Good alcohol is drank from a Mason jar (or other equivalent brand) other alcohol is drank from the can or the bottle. 🙂

        I agree that possessions are indicator, but it depends so much on money managing skills that they are a fairly poor indicator. I have a friend that between him and his wife make around 150K a year, they drive fairly new rigs (different ones every few months, but have never bought one brand new) live in fairly new triple wide and bought all new furniture to furnish it with when they bought it a few years ago. On the other hand they are over a half a million in debt and going steadily farther. I have another friend who is retired, lives in an older smallish house with mismatched silverware and dishes, him and his wife drive somewhat older rigs, and the furniture is mostly stuff moved from their old house, much of it over thirty years old and originally bought second hand. He never made a fifth of the annual income of my first friend his entire life, but he is a millionaire and owns everything free and clear with no debt. At best he was lower middle class his whole, but through good money managing he was able to raise nine kids and establish himself comfortably while not only never going into debt, but also saving a large chunk of change through the years.

      2. I was going to say — we’re somewhere else altogether, too. Including, we don’t have matched glasses because I keep forgetting to buy them, and my kids ROUTINELY use jelly jars because Dan won’t throw anything away. (They were supposed to be for me to mix paint in. never mind.) We have two sets of dinnerwear, because we’re mid transition. No table cloth, but I polyurethane the kitchen isle every six months… and we clean it before meals.

        1. We lack matched glasses because we strongly dislike what is currently on the market for replacement. Wine glasses eventually die, and the ones being offered for several years now are ridiculously large and unwieldy. Basic 10oz. kitchen glasses are in … unlikable … contours, shapes, scale or simply unavailable. So we skate by with accommodations while hoping for the world’s taste to re-synch with ours in time for us to restock the bar glasses.

          1. Oh, yeah — glasses now look like “Cricket glasses.” No, not the sport, the bug. Portuguese capture crickets in summer and keep them in glasses, fed on lettuce, sometimes well into December (inside a warm house. It’s cold that kills them outside.) My dad made his first money as a cricket catcher for people 😉 Anyway they were always kept — for some reason — in really ugly glasses (or tiny, miniature bird cages made of wicker or bamboo. My kids tell me this is normal in Asia, too.)

                  1. A Cricket in Times Square was a book that won the Newbery, eons ago. There was a cartoon version too. Anyway, the American cricket at one point meets up with an old Chinese guy who has cricket cages, so the cricket gets a very nice little house/apartment for himself.

        2. Well, we are pretty bad examples. We are either upper middle class by wealth or middle middle class by income depending on your standards …

          But all my kitchen came from thrift stores. Because I’m a f’ing cheap SOB.

          The Orowheat/Entemann’s outlet store has jam in these mason style jars with handles. I love ’em for use as drinking glasses.

            1. If we’re going with what half “trash” we were, there’s no one that falls harder and faster than decayed nobility. There is a reason when dad announced his marriage grandma threatened to put her head in the oven. And Dan or course comes from WV hillbillies on one side. My FIL once told me jokingly that there were two surnames in the town MIL’s family came from. Two surnames for centuries 😛 — I think it leavens things up. On both sides.

            2. Central European peasant stock here. Way back when, my patrilineal family was serfs for the Church. After serfs were freed, we gradually prospered through the generations and became what were called kulaks farther east.

              As a younger son, my grandfather didn’t inherit the family property. He couldn’t be fastidious about how he earned a living, so he went to looks around sheepishly law school, as did my father.

              Then the Depression, the Nazis, and the Commies came along. That family property, accumulated over generations, became part of a collective farm.

              Anyway, such is my memory of a family history I saw a long time ago…

                  1. I’m not angry, btw. Your comments are usually worth seeking out.

                    Just…indicating where I’m coming from.

                    (And I’m also not saying I get along with my family!)

                    1. My early relationship with my family involved the conflict between immigrant parents clinging to Old Country ways and children seeking out America. Our conflict was perhaps more fundamental than most because my parents, as refugees, came here more unwillingly than most immigrants do: from persecution, not for opportunity.

                      I support the policy of offering humanitarian refuge to foreigners, but am pretty sure it hasn’t been thought as well as it should.

          1. We use those for water at night for two reasons: large enough. Colorado, your throat dries. AND too small an opening for a cat’s head. Because there’s nothing worse than a cat running through the house with his head in a glass… water dribbling down his front… The amazing thing, is THEY DO IT AGAIN.

              1. I was about to say that if you want to capture it on camera, you have to set it up ahead of time. Then I thought – how many things we see on youtube are the second (third, fourth?) time around?

          2. My favorite drinking glass is a glass mug with a handle and heavy enough to easily qualify as a lethal weapon. I used to have a 10 oz. ‘cowboy shot glass’ that I really liked. My grandmother was visiting helping clear the table after dinner she commented on how ugly it was, I told her it was my favorite glass and she turned around and promptly dropped it on the floor, breaking it. She still apologizes every time the subject of dishes comes up. 😉

            My kitchen resembles yours, because a) I’m a cheap SOB b) I’m a lot more interested in functionality that aesthetics, dishes are to eat off or with, I despise plastic dishes and silverware, otherwise as long as it does what it is designed for I am happy.

            1. Oh with the exception that I far prefer the old café style glass coffee cups. Of course I can only find those at thrift stores, so while they are bought by a very strong preference I still don’t have more than two that match.

                1. You know what I always have wanted to find – the glass tea cups with steel that are seen in the film The Hunt for Red October being used by Sean Connery’s character in the Soviet SSBN in his cabin.

              1. I think honesty demands we all admit that, given disposable income, tableware comes in well below books, computers and even clothes on our priority expenditures list.

                Given sufficient disposable income we’d upgrade our bookcases and replace paperbacks with leather-bound, gilt-edged archival editions before we even went shopping for matched glassware. (Although I admit there was a set of very nice-sized — 16oz, IIRC — glass tumblers with pictures of Bugs, Daffy, Porky, Sylvester, Pepe …)

                1. As a young teen I bought my parents a set of 8 nice 14oz (I think they are called highballs) glasses with wildlife etched on them, that is honestly the last complete set of tableware I have bought. The Metlox which is collectable now was a gift, many in my family have them because my uncle was half-owner in the company.

                  1. Ours wore out — apparently the images will not survive an infinite number of trips through the dishwasher. Besides, once you take them out of the package they are no longer mint.

                    1. Oh yeah, those compulsive collectors are the worst. Keeping those compulsions dusted and in controlled humidity is just exhausting. Those mylar snuggies can really add up, too.

        3. Unmatched glasses, because we are using the survivors of about five different sets and see no reason to change it. A mix of jelly and mason jars in there too.

          Same situation with plates, about half of grandma’s are still in use, along with two half- sets Mrs. Cat bought; the first because “she liked the pattern” and “they didn’t have the pattern I liked, but these are the same ones only plain” for the rest … she bought them at the same time, mind.

          No silver, but two complete sets of stainless tableware (knives, forks, spoons) with serving pieces. That’s because, one of these days, Junior Cat will be getting his own place, and the older set of tableware, which was a hand-me-down from my sister, will go with him. So will grandma’s dishes, poor boy.

          Knives in a block, except the ceramic one that didn’t come with the block that is *insanely* sharp and has to be kept separate.

          Dining room table has a cloth and a pad and is solid wood and belonged to Mrs. Cat’s great grandmother .. but we usually eat at the artificial-surface kitchen island…

          I don’t think the old patterns held up nearly as well as our parents ma have intended.

          Mew

          1. One advantage of living alone is that your plate and cup are by definition matching themselves, no matter what you have in the cabinet.

    2. Interesting, though I think there’s two things that may buck the observed trend: taste/style, and debt. A person with a sense of style (and knowing how to spot a good deal) may coordinate their decor and items. This may move them a half-step up or so on the rankings you give. On the other hand, there is an upper limit: the quality they can afford.

      The other item is debt. There’s a lot of people who go into debt to insane levels to be able to flaunt expensive items.

      Mac, curious as to your take on these.

      1. The other item is debt. There’s a lot of people who go into debt to insane levels to be able to flaunt expensive items.

        Yeah, like college degrees of no practical value.

      2. There actually isn’t either a debt issue or a taste issue: Thrift stores. I’m calling poppycock on the definitions — some things like the coffee are generational or local, for that matter.
        BUT according to these definitions we were high class pre kids (everything matched, we used the right type of glass for everything) and moved lower through lack of TIME not money — time to cull the bits of old glassware, time to actually wash table clothes, time — or failure to give a hang — in culling out old dishes. I don’t think that makes a heck of a lot of sense “class wise”. Just saying. Also the vinyl/metal chairs are regional (they seemed to be everywhere in Ohio) and age-related — almost everyone older than I has them, anyway.

        1. The vinyl/metal chairs were a popular style from the late ’60s through pretty much all of the ’70s, then they essentially vanished. My family had them, and even had the seat cushions and seat backs replaced once. They often went with a table that was metal except for the table top, which was a hard plastic, usually with glitter embedded in the surface, and an abstract border design.

          In the ’50s and ’60s, metal kitchen cabinets were popular – I suspect it was supposed to be part of ushering in the future as presented in SciFi. Removing the metal cabinets after 50 years was a real pain in the tuckus when I remodeled our kitchen before we sold that house..

          1. I blame economics, Wayne .. steel mills grew quite a bit in the 1940s and were looking for businesses to sell to in the 1950s.

            The steel cabinets did have one huge advantage, though .. “refrigerator” magnets could be used throughout the kitchen.

            Mew

              1. I will acknowledge that there have been some great advances in the manufacture of magnets these last ten years. I don’t know who came up with the flexible sheet magnet but I do enjoy them.

            1. Leave us also acknowledge that the quality of US steel was slipping in that era as they failed to update capital equipment and let grass grow under their feet when they should have been taking full advantage of their perch atop the steel manufacturing world to invest in new plant and equipment and develop a lead so great that no European or Japanese tortoise could catch up, much less overtake.

              I doubt not that union resistance to changes in workplace rules and equipment had a little something to do with it.

      1. If you are worried about your silverware, pawn shops and some coin stores sell partial sterling sets, often at melt value plus a bit.

      2. Mac’s analysis shall henceforth be known as The Silverware Standard of Personal Wealth!

        1. Which may, with sufficient mental cramming, dovetail nicely – well, dovetail, anyway – with the Vimes Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness.

      3. It works really, really well if I put myself in my folks’ shoes, though– they got their household started in the early 80s, but are just-after-boomer in age and the latter kids at that.

    3. By your definition I cross all classes, the one that really throws me is the instant coffee reference, instant coffee is expensive, I would have substituted store brand generic pre-ground for instant myself as a sign of lower income, while instant would be affordable by middle class (with poor taste) and met with an upturned nose by upper class.
      Let me see, I am very picky about my coffee, but drink Kirkland brand Colombian (which is kept in the cupboard) because I like it better than any name brand I have ever had (though Chase and Sanborn is good) and the only other coffee I have found to be as good is some of the specialty whole bean stuff that I couldn’t afford to drink everyday. My everyday and special occasion dishes are the same, but happen to be nice handcrafted Metlox, my glasses are a mishmash of mixed and matched stuff however, I did at one time have a nice set of crystal ones, but as they got broke they got replaced by whatever. I have a set of stainless steel ‘silverware’ but also various other nonmatching silverware, including a couple pieces of sterling that are mixed in and tend to set the table with whatever, not attempting to use just the matched set I have available. Yes I use cooking utensils on the table, it cuts down on the dishes I have to wash 😉 The table is cheap veneer, and has never seen a tablecloth, the chairs match and are comfortable cushy and on rollers, but vinyl. The butter (or margarine, depends) is kept in crystal butter dish on the counter, because I like soft butter to spread, if spreading hard butter from the fridge is a sign of high class I hope I never rise to that level. Kitchen knives are again a mish-mash of different brands and quality, and are kept in the cupboard, but the ones that should be sharp are sharpened sharp enough to shave with.

      1. These are largely signifiers or emblems of class, not proof of the class itself. A person may have the income of a class yet not live the style associated with that class.

        N.B. — American concepts of “class” are markedly different from the European origins of the status.

      2. I’m a bit of a coffee snob. Been roasting beans in a popcorn popper and then making coffee in a french press (don’t look at me like that its the only French thing I own).

        1. You know everybody I know who uses a coffee press simply calls it a press, probably because they don’t want to be any way associated with the French. 🙂 And yes presses make pretty good coffee, but I prefer mine boiled, I believe a tad better flavor than a press, and much better than an electric pot, and also much hotter, I don’t care for the lukewarm coffee an electric pot dispenses.

          1. So many years ago, my parents were staying with my wife and I for an extended period. Even back then, I liked good coffee tho’ not the utter snob I am now, and I had some decent coffee in the house. Several pounds of it. Already ground and ready to go. Easily found right next to the paper coffee pot filters. I came one day and found that my parents had gone to the grocery store and bought generic coffee (blue label reading “COFFEE” …) for themselves.

            Oh, and when I opened up the coffee pot they had used a paper towel for a filter.

            That really defined my parents for my wife ….

          2. I have a buddy who called it a freedom press. I bought him a massive stainless steel one for his birthday, he calls it the battle press.

      3. I think Odds will cross all boundaries. I’m not sure that means that the classification is invalid — but I still think Mac included a lot of things that are regional and/or age related.

      4. By your definition I cross all classes, the one that really throws me is the instant coffee reference, instant coffee is expensive, I would have substituted store brand generic pre-ground for instant myself as a sign of lower income, while instant would be affordable by middle class (with poor taste) and met with an upturned nose by upper class.

        It’s a very… I don’t know what era, but before my folks got going about 1980s, in uber-rual Cali. My godparents did a kind of kludge instant coffee by super-brewing coffee, putting this triple strength stuff in a mug and adding hot water. (Mom STILL {fondly} complains about it, and my godmother’s been dead 25 years.)

        In related news, the whole-bean folks I buy my coffee from (Millhouse) is getting out of the bulk bean business right now. Sign of the times.

      5. Bleepity blerp, I originally replied because I wanted to say– my grandma mentioned that she left cheap butter out so it was soft, folks who were hoity (hoyt-ee?) toity about their butter had whipped butter which spread just fine when chilled.

        1. Interesting .. I don’t remember whipped butter prior to 1970s tub-margarine products… (country crap, as we called it)

          Mew

          1. Don’t look at what it says on the label— that’s just the companies going “Oh, wait, what?!?! they’re doing this?!?”

            Honestly, I translated there–“good” butter is the stuff locals made, nice and light and fluffy…. a ;lot like what “whipped” butter from the store is. “Store” butter is… well… the basic, generic, store made butter. You leave it out so it’s soft because it costs so much less than having a cow yourself and making butter, let alone “good” butter.

        2. ” my grandma mentioned that she left cheap butter out so it was soft, folks who were hoity (hoyt-ee?) toity about their butter had whipped butter which spread just fine when chilled.”

          Okay, maybe I am low-class, I only first seen whipped butter a few years ago. Not sure that I have ever bought it, but have had it other people’s places and didn’t see anything wrong with it, just thought it was a new fad.

          1. More likely, you’re more up-to-date than a lady who got married during WWII, from a highly rural area.

            Rich enough to have a fridge, rural enough to have hand-churned butter and various levels of it.

      1. Blink — wait. I missed that. Wait while I turn mah nose up. we have Corele — have to. the kids annihilate everything else, even now — particularly now, when they do dishes.

        1. Yes, know what you mean. My son managed to break a saucer even before it was used … I was washing them brand new and he picked it up and dropped the saucer on top of a bowl … breaking them both. Now, dropping them on the floor didn’t hurt them, but dropping them against each other … shards … go figure.

          I’m sorry, Mackey, my lower-middle-class forbears & neighbors all used Corelle. It was deemed too … tacky, I guess? … for those a step up. Now I will admit that in recent years, they have really upgraded the designs, so maybe it is more snoot-worthy now? Personally I have the plain white with a fluted edge. Also a small (6 persons) set of Fiesta ware in various colors. We use whatever strikes the fancy at the moment.

          1. Oh, that Fiesta was all gifts, collected over about 3 years. I would never spend that much of my OWN money on dishes. Please don’t think of me as upper class, please … why does this thought distress me? I’m a snob about class? Oh boy

              1. Fiesta ware is those dishes that are priced like really nice stuff, but look like they were made by somebody in a commune somewhere, while dropping to much acid, aren’t they?

                1. I think they’re the stuff from the sixties that just looks like brightly colored stoneware.

                  That’s the ones my aunt collects, anyways.

                  1. Yeah, that is what I was thinking of, looks like they used the same dye on the dishes they used on their tie-dye t-shirt, except they dropped one dish in each pot of dye, instead of either using multiple dyes on the same dish or dyeing multiple dishes with the same dye.

                    Anyways I’ve don’t recall ever seeing a set that didn’t look like a REALLY bright rainbow. Ya know…it’s like…psychedelic, man.

                2. Fiesta ware is one of those designs that look sort of like Bauhaus meets 60’s coloblindness. Art Deco enough to be devoid of grace, functional enough to be ugly, and colorful enough to keep you from ignoring it. (You may want to ignore my opinion since I like the FireKing coffee mugs and plates that are that iridescent glass in hideous warm pastels)

                  1. Fiesta ware is from the 1930’s and 1940’s, from some UK arts and crafts movement guy who moved to the US. (The antiques show on PBS was just showing some penguin jug he did before Fiesta Ware.) People used to get it as premiums from the gas stations. But it just hung on, and then it became antique, and then the company started making it again.

                    The older ones have radioactive glazes, though. Probably keeps your food safer by irradiating it.

                    1. “The older ones have radioactive glazes, though. Probably keeps your food safer by irradiating it.”

                      So I’m not exaggerating as much as I thought when I say they are so bright they pretty much glow in the dark.

                    1. I actually like 8 oz coffee cups for drinking around the house (I use an insulated mug my dad calls a sippy cup while driving) because I like my coffee hot, it isn’t that much effort to get up and refill it when it is empty.

        1. Parents either have Corelle or plastic. Pour cause. I mean, seriously — about ten years ago I thought “the kids are old enough” and got nice ceramic plates. I think we have two?

          1. Dear Husband bought some Correlle when he set up an apartment in Japan after I left, because his world view said that was the cheap stuff.

            About three years ago I snagged some nice green plates he thinks are hideous which can be slammed against walls without breaking and the girls love.

            I heart goodwill.

          2. Ugh. I hate Corelle. I know it’s supposed to be unbreakable, but when it DOES break? You’re picking shards out of your feet for weeks. (Apparently the company only promises that it’s unbreakable for ‘3 years of normal use.’ And we have 5 kids and always eat at home, so…… We go with stoneware. Because yeah, it chips. But you can use it chipped, and it doesn’t try to kill you.

      2. Also:
        Corelle is a pretty big investment if you have more than two kids. It’s a NICE thing that, if you value appearances, you’ll get. (we got, but mostly because husband is a high class town kid who thinks that’s the bare minimum…. currently I am saving up to get an 8-12 place setting in a pattern I don’t hate)

        Thing is, it’ll be our “nice” dishes then. Still use them for decent day to day stuff, but….

        1. We thought it was the bare minimum because I abhor plastic and the others break.
          OTOH we have a corelle outlet nearby and buy cheap.
          We do have a formal set… in Portugal. Like an idiot I bought it before I was even engaged. My mom has been using it for 30 years, which is unfair because she has others.

      3. Oh, I forgot that in my earlier reply. My parents had Correlle growing up, and I have a couple of their leftover dishes in my camp trailer. Correlle on the west coast is or at least was the last I checked considered the very bottom of the line tableware. Oh, and unbreakable? Try dropping it on a cement floor sometime, when Correlle breaks it doesn’t just break into two or three pieces, it shatters into smithereens.

        1. Yes, clearly it’s not “unbreakable”. That term is used to apply to dropping it on a standard linoleum or vinyl tile floor, such as most kitchens would have.

          1. You know I can recall breaking exactly one glass in my entire life, but if I have company over and they insist on helping clean up and do the dishes, it is guaranteed it will cost me at least one plate or glass. Between the fact that my house is ‘slab on grade’ and my kitchen sink is one of those old-style white enamel ones, they are guaranteed to drop and break something.

        2. Correlle and Corningware is now considered to be collectable, at least the older patterns. I was at a swap meet and there was one lady that had a whole tent of the stuff. I bought a “cornflower” pattern stove-top percolator, I was sooooo proud.

          1. ” I bought a “cornflower” pattern stove-top percolator, I was sooooo proud.”

            Ooohh, I want! I grew up using one of those, and have been looking for one at thrift stores, they make excellent coffee and unlike the el cheapo aluminum coffee pots you find today, they actually last.

            1. We had the Corelle cookware in the Cornflower pattern, I think. The table settings were in the Butterfly Gold pattern. Dad still has most of them. I think they are over 40 years old.

      4. In the ’30’s in the US, gas stations ran promotions where you earned points by buying gas and saved them up to buy sets of cheap glass place settings. Now its collectable and my mother has three cabinets full of it ….

        1. My grandmother used to talk of these, and my great grandmother had a bunch of these when we cleaned her house out. Of course she died around 2000 and she still had spare parts for her husbands log truck in the garage; and he died in the late forties/early fifties.

      5. I’m pretty sure everyone in the military uses Corelle. Have to, with all the moves we make. Anything else would get either broken or stolen.

        Herman Cain had an interesting article on class earlier this week, here. I’m not sure if I agree with him or not. The one thing I do agree with him about is that “class” as it’s used in the US is far different than where it’s used elsewhere, especially in India, but also in Europe and the Orient. Our class distinctions are based on income levels, and are not static. Class distinctions elsewhere are usually based upon status, and is transmitted at birth to the next generation.

        My parents were what would be classed today as low-middle, although toward the end, may have extended to just plain middle class. At the same time, they still lived a very Southern dirt farmer lifestyle, as that was what they grew up with. My wife and I live a totally different lifestyle, but there is far more a military influence.

  11. Discussing middle class as being determined by the type of job you do leaves me flabbergasted. Middle class is an income level, I don’t know what the official definition is but to me say 30-60K, annual income for a single person would be middle class. This will vary some depending on the area you live in and family status, I would say a family of eight with an income of 30K would not be middle class. It doesn’t matter whether you dig ditches for a living or trade stocks or are a lawyer, if you make 45K a year you are firmly middle class. Your job is a middle class job, because of the income you derive from it, not because of what it is. If nobody wants to dig ditches and your wages go up in consequence and you are making a 120K a year digging ditches, ditch digging is no longer a middle class job, conversely if nobody is willing to pay much to have a ditch dug because they can get the Mexicans living fourteen to house down the road to dig them for practically nothing and you can only make 18K a year, ditch digging is also no longer a middle class job.

    1. Take all the reported earning levels. Calculate the mean (average) thereof. Middle class appears.

      My gut says it’s a bit higher than you put it .. $30k is below the legal poverty line for a family of 6 in Arkansas .. and *should* be below poverty for a single person in Manhattan. (http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/13poverty.cfm)

      I’d suggest that $45k-$75k is middle-class.

      Mew

      1. This brings to mind an observation somebody made about the Chris Reeves/Margot Kidder Superman. Lois’s apartment, to anyone familiar with Manhattan real estate of that era, strongly suggests that this “star” reporter is picking up quite a bit of money through extra-curricular activities — journalism no way pays well enough to afford that apartment, even with rent control.

        1. Everyone, in every movie and TV show, lives higher than their supposed profession could truly support. If I were more prone to conspiracy theories, I’d say it’s intended to piss people off; as it is, I suspect it’s more to do with TV/movie production people dreaming of living better than they actually do *AND* doing what they can to get a little extra form the production budget. Not all props make it back to the prop warehouse; they couldn’t!

          1. One aspect about the “size” of TV/Movie apartments could very well be “ease of filming”. The larger a house or apartment is, the easier it would be to get all the people/equipment needed to film a scene into it.

            1. That’s true. Having helped with a few 24-hour film projects, it’s amazing what even a “guerilla” film crew can cram into a small room.

      2. Another way of looking at it is the level of financial security a person has. Lower class means survival depends on getting that weekly paycheck (welfare check) and no unanticipated expenses. Middle class means having more income than simple survival consumes, so that you enjoy a degree of financial cushion from the invariable blows against the fiscal empire. Upper class means your money earns you enough to live. There are, of course, interplays between income and expenditures such that high income may yet leave you in lower class.

        1. Also, don’t forget that *having* money makes it easier to *save* money. The Pratchett story about Cdr Vimes’ boots for example. When you can pay cash, you save money on interest and have more money in the long run. If you can afford to buy better quality, you will spend less (and less frequently) on replacement. If you have the money to spend to fill the heating oil tank at the beginning of winter, you spend less per month than using space heaters to warm an otherwise cold house.

          1. The secret to having money is not spending it all, it is not a matter of how much you earn (beyond a certain level), but how much of it you save. If you scrimp to save you, have a pillow to catch you if you have a financial emergency, instead of borrowing it or owing it. If you spend it all you have no margin and have to buy Vime’s cardboard boots.
            It is a matter of having a safe place to save the money (so it won’t be stolen), and trust there won’t be bad inflation (so the government won’t be, in effect, stealing it)

  12. Speaker I label you upper middle class. Bearcat I’d say how you live defines class more than income. The value of that defining income changes quite a bit over a decade. There are misers who live in poverty with huge paper wealth, and middle class living like they are rich who will eventually crash and burn because they are maxed out on credit and can sustain no emergency. There are those like coupon queens who scrimp and do sales and watch very closely to live better than others on their same salary. The rich are almost by definition those who have far more income than they need for everyday living. You have to be a fool to become un-rich once you have attained it. See the movie – “A New Leaf”.

    1. But economists define it by profession, I think — it doesn’t make any sense to say “the middle class income has been stagnant for 30 years” otherwise. Unless it’s by “median income” which, yeah, if you compute illegal, (illiterate) workers and the super rich, I guess it’s “the same”.

      1. Nevermind that the salary surveys are routinely 10%-20% over where the actual median for a given profession is .. nor that some professions (lawyer) have *vastly* different salaries depending on sub-profession… (litigator vs. corporate vs. doing real estate closings and wills and ….)

        Mew

          1. Heh. I forget, this corner of the interwebz doesn’t seem to ignore or deny or wish-think away human nature.

            Warms the cockles of my alleged, cold, black heart, it does.

            Mew

  13. My brother, who prides himself on his memory, once insisted that I was the one with a birthmark and our oldest sister didn’t have a birthmark. We both had to strip down in order to convince him. I will never let him live this down. 😀

    1. Depending on the birthmark’s location, it might not be your brother’s memory which ought concern you.

        1. From your initial description, I was picturing something along the lines of the birthmark in The Court Jester. 😛

  14. It is a blessing that we forget.

    When I was 10 or so we were living with my father’s mother. My dad’s cousin and brother got thoroughly drunk and went down to Huntington beach, each of them with a half empty bottle of tequila in hand. After wandering down past the high tide mark and away from the light of the pier they came across, what they thought, was a very large water-logged tree trunk.

    Being as drunk as they were they started to wax philosophic.
    “Ya know, this log wasn’t meant to be here” one said to the other. “Let’s push it back out into the ocean so it can complete it’s journey.”

    Turns out the log was actually a large, male sea-lion that had been wounded somehow and had hauled itself onto the land to rest. When these two stupid drunks started pushing and shoving, it didn’t take to kindly too the disturbance. It turned, rose up, and made that awful, roaring, gargling sound they make, and began humping itself after them.

    The two said drunks immediately screamed like little girls, pissed themselves, and started to run away. They were so drunk and so scared that they didn’t think to throw away their bottles, which impeded them greatly when they hit the high tide mark. They ended up scrambling on hands and knees half way up the beach to get away from the angry beasty. They showed up at the house a little while later, smelling of urine and booze, caked in sand, and still hyped up over their encounter with nature.

    Thing is, the next morning they didn’t recall a thing, and called us all nuts when told them the story they had told us the night before. They still deny it to this day. Even funnier, half the people that were in the house that night have ‘gone over to their side’, as far as the story is concerned.

    The lesson I guess is, booze and embarrassment tends to effect memory. Also, don’t get drunk and go down to the beach after dark. You might piss off a sea-lion.

    1. That may be state-dependent memory. If they got drunk again, they may remember.

      This applies to other things, too. Events that happened when you were sleep-deprived are remembered best when you are sleep-deprived, etc. That’s one problem with cramming the night before the test.

        1. Yup.

          Look on the bright side. Rock stars who habitually performed stoned often found they were incompetent unless stoned. It’s not that bad.

          1. That’s assuming they were competent when stoned. That’s not a given. They *thought* they were competent… and all of the stoned listeners thought so, too. Sort of like beer goggles but for the ears, I guess. Brings new meaning to the term “Pot Head.”

  15. Heh. I have this clear memory, back when I was still deciding if I wanted to be on Facebook, of running across a page labeled “Reagan-era poverty”.

    Talk about a rewrite! Every single thing the page mentioned had happened to me .. only it was under Ford or Carter. Reagan was when things got *better*.

    Silly asses.

    Mew

  16. Oh Chad. You got me laughing so hard my nose was running.
    In my family I strongly suspect ‘memory’ has been used to clean up the less savory family honor for public viewing. One of my distant cousins in Florida remembered my uncle Ray. “The one who died at his desk in the Navy.”
    My uncle Ray came to live (mooch) with us when I was about 4 or 5. So it was well after WWII when he served in the Navy. He was a drunk and did things like go down to the local department store and buy a TV we couldn’t afford in my dad’s name, because “Everybody owns one now.” He went to a bar in Canton one night and when the place closed he was too drunk to find his car – fell in the deep country drainage ditch and drown. I guess a heart attack at your desk is nicer.

  17. Oh, Bearcat. Instant is expensive, but when you make one cup at a time it is much less wasteful than making a pot. The single cup brew things get around that nicely.

      1. There are numerous methods for making a single cup that have nothing to do with the nast that is instant. Mokapot, smaller french presses, the Aeropress. Also, espresso, if you have the patience. I’ve tried Keurigs, and despite the convenience (which is an enormous draw, admittedly) I can’t stand the brew. Thin, watery swill. Even with the “grind your own” cups you can get.

          1. Agreed. Keurig is not acceptable. I’d sooner use the 1970s Corning Ware stovetop percolator than a Keurig .. the Corning beast is a 30 minute commitment, but it tastes like coffee … (it’s not for everyday, its’ just there in case of power outage)

            Mew

          2. So – I’m going to speak up in favor of the Keurig. I have one. In fact, I have two (three if you count the one I gave to the lab) – one at home and one in my office. The quality of the coffee depends a lot on what K-cups you use. I don’t like most Green Mountain blends – and those are what most people encounter. (The exception is that I like Nantucket Blend.)

            I admit that a K-cup doesn’t compare to grinding the beans and preparing a pot of perked coffee (or even Mr. Coffee drip). But so much of it is due to which blend you try. I think most people who have tried K go with either the Green Mountain, “Donut Shop” or Gloria Jeans varieties – frankly those are cheap – in many ways – and don’t usually end up “coffee-flavored” (also, they tend to go overboard with flavors). I have found that I like Emeril’s Big Easy Bold, Coffee People Black Tiger and Eight-O’Clock coffee. Admittedly, the most notable “lack” to K-cups, is that you just don’t get coffee *aroma* – either from the grounds or the brewing coffee – the exception being Eight-O’Clock, which is my new favorite because it smells and tastes like *COFFEE*!
            Then again, I’ve chosen my favorites because they do give the taste and smell I want.

            When I want something special, I pack a “My K-Cup” with Dole’s Wailua Coffee (exclusively from Dole Plantation on Oahu) – and I don’t waste it by brewing four cups and drinking one.

            The convenience issue is key for me. I drink only one to two cups a day – period – and usually those are one in the morning and one in the afternoon/evening. Even more than the caffeine, I need the warm liquid, so late cups are often decaf. There are many things you can do to adjust strength and temperature of the brew (although most of the teas are weak), so the key issue for me is one cup, when I want it.

            1. I’ll second this one. I bought one of those filter canisters for our Keurig, and am currently using Eight O’Clock coffee in it. Apparently, I don’t drink my coffee quite as strong as some people here, because running it twice through the same grounds on the middle-sized setting makes a good 16 oz or so cup of coffee for me.

              Besides convenience, for me, is the fact that I don’t have to worry about leaving a pot on a hot burner to turn the remaining coffee into a hard, crusty coating on the bottom.

          1. Y’know, I’m just contrarian enough to accept that for the compliment it is. *seizes heretofore unseen rope* Yoiks – and away! *swings off into the glom of nit*

              1. I assumed so. I was just feeling … odd. And hadn’t yet had coffees. Also, early morning was early. Also, I’m in the midst of the climactic scene of the WiP. So reasons.

  18. Memory is always unreliable and language it seems is almost always used to distort in the political sphere and to frame narratives for Homo Prevaricus , the common politician

    Its a big reason why common sense measures like precise mathematical descriptions are avoided.

    Take for example the middle class issue. Its not remotely difficult to state “a person to be considered middle class in 1960 could buy this amount of goods, which is this percent of the total GDP per year” whereas the same thing now takes X.

    This would be precise, efficient and allow people to know exactly how much better off (or worse for that matter)

    Of course they’ll still fudge the numbers but outright accounting fraud is a little harder.

    However this kind of precision forces the political class to take responsibility for the actions which won’t happen

    I figure it if there is a hell, the one politicians go to has Old Scratch at the door greeting them with “Here you are held responsible”

    1. I’ve long since come to the conclusion that anyone using “class” as a descriptor in any context more consequential than a casual discussion with friends is necessarily untrustworthy.

      Why, even right here on this blog, where we can very reasonably assume good intent among all concerned and the stakes (beyond clear communication itself) are effectively nil, we can’t come to agreement about what “middle class” means. Moreover, unlike Harry Blackmun’s infamous quip about defining “pornography”, I suspect that the inability to come to agreement on a definition here reflects an actual — and meaningful — disagreement about the structure of the American class system.

      1. “Moreover, unlike Harry Blackmun’s infamous quip about defining “pornography”,

        When you see a priceless French painting and I see a drunk naked girl.

  19. I think one of the errors people fall into when thinking about changes over historical time is that their sense of scale is out of whack. Twenty or thirty years ago is a long time to them. But it’s not, really. Someone in middle age will toss out a memory from his childhood as an example of something and say, “Twenty years ago,” or “The last thirty years ago,” and will be brought up short if reminded that the time span is closer to forty or fifty years.

    Over the last thirty years, I’d say middle class incomes have remained stagnant, but it’s almost irrelevant. The established image the society (or significant portions of it) has in its mind of a middle-class existence is still stuck in the ’60s, which in turn was still stuck in some halcyon period founded in ’30s aesthetics, but wrapped in ’50s prosperity.

    The real kick to purchasing power came in 1971. 42 years ago for those keeping track. About this time of year, AAMOF, when America went off the gold standard. At the time gold was trading at, if memory serves, around $35 per ounce. Today, as I write this, I see quotes in the $1,300 range. Assuming that the relationship between gold and most goods has remained relatively stable (a problematic assumption, but bear with for a second), that’s a 3,700% change. By that assumption, a $40,000 annual salary in the late ’60s should be worth $1.48 million today. Not terribly accurate, but still, it should give you an idea of the delta.

    Know any hydraulics engineers in aerospace making seven figures these days? ‘Cause that’s what my uncle made working at Avco not much earlier than that.

    M

    1. I think one of the reasons we went off of the gold standard was the $35/oz peg was not in line with reality so the treasury was bleeding gold to foreign banks. Americans still couldn’t own gold coins back then. When that changed a few years later, gold popped to $800/oz just in time for my husband’s class ring to be massively overpriced.

      My inflation adjustment for 79/80 to now is about 4. I don’t remember exactly where that number came from but it works well. I had 4 wisdom teeth out in 78, my younger son had his out a year or two ago and it cost about 4 times as much as my mom paid. It would have cost 10 times as much (“medical” inflation) but this surgeon did NOT take insurance.

      1. This discussion came up the other day, and my dad mentioned he bought a brand new 1978 Ford 3/4 ton 4×4 pickup in 78 for $5800, a new comparable pickup today MSRP’s at $33,665 , of course NADA says that same ’78 pickup today in average condition is worth $4,968.

        1. A challenge in reading vintage fiction is translation of wage/price value across time, especially when you cross the Inflation Decade (colloquially known as “the 70s”.)

          It takes a real effort to read a Depression era novel, like a Nero Wolfe and find a $10,000 fee a big deal … until you consider it amounts to about seven years income for an average worker. I mean, Archie reports tipping a nickle like it isn’t an insult.

          1. Yes, read some of the Louis L’amour’s and you have to compute for a ’30 a month and found’ cowhand a hundred dollar pair of boots was over three months wages. And I consider a pair of boots that costs over three days wages expensive.

          2. Part of the fun with old-time radio, too. One of my favorite series, “Your’s Truly, Johnny Dollar” is framed as the expense account for an insurance investigator.

            One that stands out was $1.85 for two burgers, two orders of fries, and two cokes to go for him and an accomplice on a stake-out.

            1. Food though is one f the few things that have gotten cheaper. I can get if I look carefully what Johny Dollar got for about $10 and change I’ve seen it low as $8.75 with tax though that meat scares me

              — thats about an hours work at the bottom end

              JD would have to work almost 3 at the low end for that

              However if we assume a market basket of good measured as a percent of GDP and break it down by profession, most people have been shafted since about the 1950’s in terms of buying power save for food costs.

              However politicos count on the natural frailties of most peoples memories and that why math is avoided,

              1. I’d really like to see a breakdown of that, because I think your sources are flawed. Food prices in the 1950s were enough lower that going to a top-end specialty store in New York then would not cost as much as a local discount market today.

                Here is a price list for Thanksgiving victuals in 1961, in New Jersey. I see nothing on there that I can get for less than 4 times the price if meat is not on sale.

                It’s true that people had to use more of their budget for food in those days, but 4 or 5 times as much, and the individual tax burden was much lower then, as well.

      2. i graduated in ’82, and the price of Gold was one reason I don’t have a Gold class ring.

  20. Some things like a fine bespoke suit have remained remarkably constant in gold. Other things it becomes apparent the improvements in technology – including computers – have all been kept by the corporations and none of it allowed to get away into wages. We were stuck with artificial scarcity in many things. Remember when calling relatives LONG DISTANCE was an heavy expense and the first thing you did if you called was assure them nobody had died? I had a telegram from when my great great grandfather on my mother’s side died. The message was terse – fit into twelve words because more cost extra. Who died – date – time of funeral. The message sent only because if he saddled up and rode hard he could attend the funeral. They had to bury him before he stank too bad, so no delaying.

  21. Out of curiousity I looked up middle-class on Wikipedia. According to them middle class in America ranges from $25,000 to $100,000 annual wage earners, this doesn’t really coincide that well with the fact that national median individual wage is $32,000 and household median annual income is $46,000. Nor does the fact that they spend the majority of the article talking about the upper 15-20% of the middle class which they define as having 6-figure household incomes.

    Gotta love Wikipedia for their clear, concise and noncontradictory information.

  22. When I was teaching US History II (1876-1992), the text book was all about the terrible times for the 1980s and the “Me Decade.” I remember the Farm Crisis (was living in Nebraska so it was all over the news) and a booming economy and how the Soviet Union seemed to be unbeatable, until it started to stagger.

      1. Ha ha. 😛 No, that’s how most universities break up the two halves of the intro US history course. Part one is from the pre-Columbian to Reconstruction (aka 1400-1876), and Reconstruction to “present.”

    1. My kids had a history book that called Reagan “lucky.” They had to listen to their mother for a while after that.

  23. Sure the past changes in socialistic countries. And in capitalistic countries. The “good old days” weren’t that good, and the “bad days” weren’t that bad.

    Of course, every place is both socialistic and capitalistic – and everybody wants various degrees of both. And every place also has a lot of people with power via the good old boy network. That aristocracy doesn’t get paid by how well they do their work, but by a variety of criteria.

  24. I have the same problem of Remembering Things Clearly. One thing in particular explains why I act like I do.

    And why I’ve spent the past 38 years trying to destroy what remains of my ability to remember.

  25. Good news comrade! Chocorat’s been increased to 20 grams! Don’t forget to thank Big Brother on your way to the Ministry!

  26. Rewriting History

    Then there are the founding narratives of various religions and ethical systems.

  27. The most severe case of political whiplash I ever experienced was when Ronald Reagan died, and the same exact reporters and commentators who I remember hearing with my own ears loudly characterizing Reagan as a horrible awful terrible president, and complaining mightily about how the “Teflon Presidency” was such an ongoing disaster, but those stupid flyover people kept re-electing the damn fool, were suddenly gushing about the great legacy of the fallen Great Communicator.

    My neck still twinges when I recall that change in narrative.

    1. I was too young to appreciate all that at the time. But I’m lucky to have my own Teflon President Mark II… I guess.

        1. The difference is that none of the MSM lies affected Reagan while with Obama the MSM acts as a shield deflecting truth.

        1. Dead conservatives are primarily useful when they allow liberals to criticize living (and in power) conservatives in contrast. The praise for Reagan was always used to deprecate George W. Bush. This practice allows liberals to pose as non-partisan while taking vicious partisan shots at current opponents. “See, we are willing to acknowledge that Reagan, unlike W, didn’t eat babies raw, so we’re not reflexively anti-conservative.”

    2. Nothing so endears a conservative to the media and the Left (but I repeat myself) as dying.

  28. I was talking with a Democrat a while ago (a year?) and complaining about how bad the economy has become. He said remember what a “shithole” it was under Bush. I wasn’t really prepared for that level of revision, all I could remember on the spur of the moment is that unemployment was still worse that it had ever been under Bush.

    1. Certainly you weren’t so gauche as to point out that the current unemployment during the recovery is higher than at the worst point after 9/11, were you? Because that would be mean. 🙂

      1. Don’t forget to point out workforce participation per captia. Makes the unemployment numbers look positively rosy.

        Mew

        1. It really went down the tubes in the last two years of Bush’s administration when the Pelosi Pawns punked the House.

  29. Totally off-topic, but since it is a about a Colorado author running for office I’ll post this link. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/08/13/porno-penning-republican-candidate-says-colorado-gop-targeted-her/?intcmp=trending

    I haven’t looked up and tried to read the story they are talking about, but have to say that if it is anything like either side is describing it, basing your vote on a book she wrote ten years ago (keep in mind she is an author and that was her First published book, meaning once she broke in she apparently never wrote anything as objectionable) either a) there isn’t a nickels worth of difference between the candidates or b) your a raving idiot.
    On the other hand she comes across as a whiny little @#% who can’t stand losing and would rather sabotage the candidate that beat her in the primary than admit that she lost, but the candidate that beat her is still better than the anti-gun liberal Democrat he is running against. Makes one wonder if she isn’t a Democrat plant to sabotage the election.

    1. quite possibly. I’m voting against Morse. And btw — if they go into what I’ve written, I’m screwed. Sword and Blood alone would sink it — and this is why I’ll never run for election except as an open libertarian. ’cause the libertarians don’t care if you’ve written B & D with vampires. They just go “Oh. Did you ever have sex with something not a mammal? Cause people might not like that.”

      1. And even then someone is going to want to know if the sheep consented, and how did you know. (I had a very . . . eccentric . . . American history and culture professor in grad school. Really good teacher, but eccentric.)

  30. I wonder if some of the “Worse 10 years ago” nonsense has to do with the fact that a lot of our ‘public intellectuals’ are based in Washington, DC. DC has been thriving while the rest of the country is stagnating. I had a friend in federal govt. who was complaining because he ONLY got a 5% raise this year. Meanwhile….. my husband’s workplace is happy because they managed to find the cash for a 2% raise last year….. which meant that people’s paychecks still went DOWN once the payroll taxes returned to their normal levels.

    In DC, things are booming. They don’t feel the recession. They don’t have skyrocketing health insurance costs. (10 years ago, we made less money, but had health insurance. Today, health insurance has gotten so expensive for small businesses, that we are now uninsured. So….when you figure in benefits we’re actually making $5,000 a year LESS than 10 years ago, even before you look at the ‘imaginary inflation’ that’s driven up food prices.

    We still have a decent standard of living, but only because we’ve eliminated choices… instead of buying whatever meat we want for dinner, we see what’s on sale and eat that. (We had 3 months where we only ate pork. Because here in the Midwest, you can get pork loin for $1.79 a pound in season.) The kids don’t get to do as many cool activities. We rely more on hand-me-downs from friends with older kids.

    We’re lucky that we were doing well enough before that we can cut back to something. And we’re in an area where young people CAN get jobs, if they’re willing to show up on time and sober, pass drug tests, not mouth off to the boss, and not have tons of tattoos…….. But 10 years ago? EVERYONE could get jobs right out of school.

    It’s bad out there. It might be Great Depression bad. It doesn’t LOOK as bad because the unemployed are home on their computers instead of standing on street corners… and because a lot of people who’d rather not work part time ARE working part time. (i.e. Me. In the past, I could write fiction, sell an occasional story, and it was fine. Now I NEED to make money on a regular basis. So it’s copywriting for me. I think there are a lot of other people who’ve had to give up leisure to keep their families afloat… and that’s not showing up on the ‘how bad things are’ radar, because the government doesn’t CARE about leisure. )

    It’s bad…. unless you’re in D.C., in which case happy days are here again….

    1. “I had a friend in federal govt. who was complaining because he ONLY got a 5% raise this year. ”

      I wonder how many generations in the future are paying for his raise.

      1. Pfui. I’m afraid that the Fed and all the right people are figuring on inflating out of the debt. “After all, it worked out all right in the 70’s when Carter saved us!”

    2. I got a raise this year only because I got no raise for 3 previous years, and the “market analysis” said I was underpaid. Rather surprising, since the “market” (presuming job market) is so bad, how far off the mean was I?

      Then there’s the problem that we pay technicians and all salaries from NIH grants – and those budgets have built-in raises, but the university won’t let us pay the raise we budgeted for.

      1. When I moved to where I am now, ten years ago I went to work full time for a company, ninety days later I got a 8% raise (still about 25% under what I was getting paid before I moved, and without the benefits of my previous job). Now the company doesn’t have enough work to keep me on part time even if I wanted to work there, when I started there were about ten employees, now there are four, including the owner, and non are completely full time. I do go and work for them a few weeks a year when they need a little extra work and call me, usually make 3-5000 that way a year. But I am still getting the same hourly rate as I was when I started there ten years ago, and the ‘most-time’ employees (usually full-time 4-5 months a year now and part time down to complete layoffs for a couple months in the winter) have actually took both pay cuts and benefit cuts in order for the business to stay afloat.

  31. I’ve got the perfect example of this from popular culture… anyone here ever hear the song “Everyday America” by Sugarland? Isn’t it funny how it seemed to get lots of airplay in the 2004-2008 period, but not so much now? It’s like the economy finally matched the state of the song, so, “Mission Accomplished,” they stopped playing it.

    1. BTW, that’s the one where the refrain went, as near as I could tell at the time,

      “Oh oh, everybody’s dreaming big
      Oh oh, but everybody’s just getting by
      That’s how it goes in everyday America
      A small town, and a great big lie…”

      Internet says it was something else.

      Maybe my memory’s defective.

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