Third Acts


Because of a post on FB yesterday (not mine) I remembered that almost forty years ago, when I was an exchange student in Ohio, the history books said something like “the American dream is dead, if in fact it even ever existed.”  Not those words, but that was the general thought.

Even back then this annoyed me no end. I saw things like my thoroughly middle class host family going out and buying a TV for the kitchen, so mom could watch TV while cooking.  They did this on the spur of the moment, one day.  In Portugal at the time (now I swear mom has a TV in every room, and being the woman who listens to audio books while doing household chores, I’m out of stones to throw) such a purchase would take weeks if not months of planning and preparing.

But meanwhile people were moaning and bitching the American dream was dead, and if you weren’t born elite, you’d never become elite.

It’s all in how you talk about it. All in what you consider elite and the American dream and a good life, I guess.  And yes, the time I was in the US as an exchange student was… depressing.  We had Carter and Malaise. There was a feeling of the closing of opportunity mostly because the “environmentalists”had convinced us all that we were about to run out of oil.  Or at least they’d convinced those of us who were young enough.

Then there was Reagan.

In the eighties we knew America was becoming haves and have nots, the early version of the one percenters, and media preached how you know, a few would be riding private jets while the rest of us watched from our thatched cottages, if we were so lucky,or our mud holes, otherwise.

Science fiction magazines were filled with dystopian stories about how the decline of America had started under Reagan and now it was all feudal techno overlords and the struggling, starving peasants.

This continued into the Clinton years.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s still the mental picture of our “elites” who are struggling so hard to stay on top, because you know…

But anyway, my point here was that we’ve been packed full of idiocy in American schools, probably forever. Mostly because academics like theories, and therefore tend to jump on the theory bandwagon.

And yet America continues to succeed.  And the scales continue falling from people’s eyes.

Years ago my son’s then 11th grade class attacked my blog at the command of the English teacher who took offense at my not “respecting” her by making fun of an assignment that confused culture and race.

What was notable about that was how incoherent and agrammatical these people were (who were getting As, mind you. Son was getting Bs because he used PRONOUNS. The idiot teacher apparently didn’t know the difference between that and adverbs. I finally got the attack to stop by telling her that if one more of the idiots came to my blog I was going to post my son’s “corrected” assignments, after scanning them in.  It stopped, cold.)

People from abroad were horrified and said “but how can America succeed if this is how they educate their children” (in an elite program, mind.)

My reaction was “It don’t make no nevermind. They’ll learn.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald was always wrong when he said “there are no second acts in American life.” (He meant there was no time for appreciating the fruits of your labor before the inevitable decline of old age. And no, I also don’t know what he was drinking. I’d guess turpentine, but I’m mean.)  He is particularly wrong today.

We are such a wealthy country we can afford to fill our kids heads full of shiite and the economy and society don’t collapse.  They don’t collapse because there are second and third, and sometimes fourth acts in American life.  We live longer and more healthy than (the mostly socialized medicine) rest of the world. At sixty or so, when our grandparents wound down to elderly we’re often starting our second (or third) career.

But more importantly we can learn, and never more than now when online learning for whatever fascinates you is available.

I used to be amazed that every American had a hobby, but even more amazed with people well past thirty (and fifty, and sixty) going out and taking classes and trying to learn things.

By human standards, we’re more neurotic than shaved monkeys, that’s true. Compared to the rest of humanity, we seem to value not at all sitting back and chewing our gums by the fireside while pondering where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We value looking forward and doing and creating more.

Well, a portion of us do. The rest like talking about how they’ve been hard done by and sitting back and enjoying being victims.

But they’re not a majority.  And in the end they’re not important.

What gives America its tempo, its abilities, is the going forward and doing other things.

Yeah, my generation (all over the world, really) was spectacularly maleducated, but not as much as our children.  But we got better.  And they will too. Unless we coddle them and are afraid to tell them the hard truths.

Don’t do that.  Growing up hurts. But it leads to spectacular third acts.

And keeps America playing at the center of the world, as the engine of civilization.

Let’s get on that.

206 thoughts on “Third Acts

  1. *chuckles*
    I was about to be upset that I don’t have a hobby…then I realized that jewelry making, sewing, creative cooking, weaving, leatherworking, philosophy, theology and writing are all hobbies that I do, I’m just not very serious about them. I dabble in my hobbies, compared to folks that could be pros if they didn’t want to keep things fun!

        1. One thing I learned early was that most of the people I worked with had no hobbies at all. Unless “going to a club” and “watching television” could be considered hobbies. Or buying feetball tickets a couple of times a year.

          Maybe I was always with a freak collection of co-workers, or perhaps the ones who had hobbies had been ridiculed for it and so kept it quiet.

          Criminy. I worked with more than one programmer who bragged they didn’t have a computer at home…

          1. It’s possible they didn’t think of them as hobbies, same as I didn’t?
            If I hadn’t turned around and seen the loom I got the kids for Christmas, I wouldn’t have even though of it, and I’m nearly on top of a couple of the toys I modified for the kids. It’s just stuff that I do because it’s fun, I wouldn’t even mention the jewelry to anybody I knew in flesh-space because they’d want to see it, and I’m not that good yet.
            (Know those big, silly buttons they sell at the craft store? The girls have three previously identical florescent pink and purple raccoons. Which now have things like a flower behind an ear, a ring, a big necklace….. and all it took was whipstitching the things on. So now they can tell them apart without looking at the tags.)

          2. I consider watching television a hobby. Not sitting in front of it and blindly watching whatever is on; I don’t even have the TV set up for that. But watching shows, things with STORIES, sure. Usually on DVD or Amazon. And I do the same thing with those as I do with books: engage with other fans and discuss characters and storyline or what have you.

            Mind, I’m usually also writing my own stories, or doing schoolwork, or reading a book or messing about on the Internet at the same time.

          3. I’ve been having fun trying to do some character development, precisely because I was having fun trying to work out reasonable hobbies for a medieval era. In one work, having decided that this woman liked to sew, and that one to sing, I finally decided that one man liked to whittle, and frequently did to show the youngsters what the monsters looked like — thus leaving a second man still at loose ends.

            1. Chemistry (such as it was). Math (such as IT was). History. Foreign languages. Odd weapons. Falconry. Telling tall tales. People come up with something.

              1. Actually, needed a portable hobby that didn’t involve other people (so gambling and other games were out).

                1. Braiding/working with knots perhaps? Useful, and all he’d need is a length of rope or string. (or it could be expanded to making said rope.)

                2. Composing love sonnets? Dog training doesn’t involve other people and qualifies as portable. Writing medieval SF — “Tom Swift and His Amazing Pedicycle”?

    1. My comment about hobbies. It’s not really a hobby unless someone thinks you’re insane for wanting to do it.

      Having said that, I wonder what you thought the term hobby meant. A hobby is not something you do with a single-minded determination, instead it is something you choose to do because you don’t have enough work to fill all the time you are going to have in your life. It’s something you do because you enjoy doing it, not because you need to do it to survive. It’s a regular activity that keeps you from being bored.

      1. Having said that, I wonder what you thought the term hobby meant. A

        That’s why I was laughing at myself– I stumbled over an odd quirk where I’d limited “hobby” to the truly fanatical, and everything else was “stuff you just do“. (Or possibly fandoms.)

      2. Part of the problem is that my folks’ friends, and my high school associates, and folks I end up talking to, include a really large number of trust-fund babies and very wealthy retirees.

        For one example, the guy fell in love with how cool my mom’s leatherworking is….and dropped several thousand dollars on a setup that mom WISHES she could manage, and she’s been collecting bits for at least 40 years. About 9 months later, he’s on a different hobby, it gathers dust…..

        1. Still, I started thinking about the paracord bracelets, and I checked out the costs – really, not that bad to get started.
          For me, it’s a back-burner idea. Something to do on long car trips/flights. I have friends who have tables at flea markets, I could sell them.
          For me, it WOULD be a hobby – something to make for family and friends. Don’t want to work that hard on it as a business.

    2. I used to have hobbies … but they keep turning in to jobs! When I was a kid, electronic gadgets were a hobby. When I became an electrical engineer, rockets were my hobby. When I designed rockets, propulsion for deep space was my hobby. Now I have one job doing advanced propulsion for deep space and another using electrical engineering for power beaming. I guess I need a new hobby.

      1. Early ’80s between Forestry & Computer programming, while hubby was working & no kids at home. I knitted, made baby quilts, embroidered & cross-stitched, have some large macrame pieces (not up, but I have them). Turns out none of us can wear knits, so all got given away or sold*, baby quilts got given away or sold*, some cross stitched stuff made & sold*, kept the one large quilt made for us, but other than that, given away & sold*.

        * Guess what when I had to sell the stuff, it became, Work, & was no longer fun.

        I probably made around 30 baby/toddler quilts, guess how many my son, nieces & nephews, got? I you laughed & said none, zip, zero, give yourself a gold star.

        While the kid was growing up we hiked, did (western) National Parks. Still do. But mostly volunteered for Scouts & sports.

        Now hubby complains I have no hobbies when we aren’t traveling. Not 100% true. Training our pup, my SD, takes up my days. That & reading. He plays golf. I’m not taking up golf (tried it, nope, not, no). I’ll find more to do, I always do.

      1. *laughs* Well, I DABBLE in all of that- I wish I did enough to offer examples, but most of the stuff is things like fixing the girls’ jewelry, or troubleshoot their crafts, or just fix stuff.

        But it’s fun.

        1. I have a sewing machine; Aff gave it as a cross Christmas/Birthday/here,stress less present. I am hoping to have the time to learn to use it, so I can make more little pillow cases. I hand make little pillows out of old shirts for the kids, and hand sew the pillow cases out of either doll / cotton velour or (non-dot) minky.

          Jaenelle tends to throw up a lot though so… she’s got two.

  2. The thing is, the academics and self-nominated intellectuals keep expecting things to STOP. They are constantly being caught by surprise by people who just go on to do The Next Thing. Since they sincerely believe (on Gods know what evidence) that they are the only intelligent people, they are always flat footed when somebody does something new.

    1. they sincerely believe (on Gods know what evidence) that they are the only intelligent people

      They were the “A” students, always giving the expected answers and never thinking outside the boxes. As if reality gives a @#!$ about that. They are the ones incapable of wrapping their minds around the the failure of theory, much less the concept that those who blew off school with only minimal effort to get passable grades were demonstrating a vastly better grasp of the importance of academics.

      George W Bush was mocked as a poor student at Harvard, as if his grades would matter once he got that Harvard Diploma. Having that Mensa membership and being unable to keep track of your car keys is less valuable than a GED and knowing how to jimmy the locks.

      1. The ragging on Bush Jr’s academic record was particularly amusing when Kerry was the Dem candidate, given that both of them came out of school with “C” averages. (Bush’s a touch higher, IIRC, but I won’t swear to that because my memory can give pointers to black holes on how to suck. 😛 )

        1. Kerry’s entire political career was financed by marrying into money-twice. He has been a banal idiot his entire life. Of course the fact that Kerry married into massive wealth and has spent that money in pursuit of leftist politics doesn’t bother Democrats whatsoever. It’s only when their political opponents spend money that “money in politics” is suddenly bad. They really mean is”the fact that political opponents are allowed to speak” is bad..

        2. Correct. GWB had a point or so on Kerry, but it started with AlGore the divinity school dropout supposedly being smarter than the “dumb” GWB.
          Bush readily admitted to not paying much mind to school and too much to booze and parties, so he very much underperformed. After the SCOTUS stopped the “We’ll recount and fiddle until we win this thing” b. s. it was one of the go-to hammers of the leftoids. Then they go and run J. Effing Kerry, who was provably so much smartyer then that dumbo Boosh, why look at their grades!

            1. Smatryest man Evar!
              “Prove it.”
              No. but trust us and him, he’s so brilliant you can’t believe it.
              “You’re right. I don’t believe it.”

                  1. Pants creased, new shoes
                    and I don’t know where I am goin’ to.
                    Silk suit, black tie,
                    I don’t need a reason why.
                    They come runnin’ just as fast as they can
                    ’cause liberals all crazy ’bout a smart dressed man.

      2. I do maintenance at a university and I frequently surprise the faculty with the depth of my knowledge.

        Recently I was staring off into space, trying to figure out how I was going to get to a light fixture in order to work on it, and a teacher asked what I was contemplating. I told her that I was contemplating my secret name and recited the final stanza of Eliot’s “Naming Of Cats.”

        She looked stunned, and I asked her, “Don’t you know your Eliot?”

        She said, “I do, but I wasn’t expecting to hear it from you.”

        Meaning that in her world the guy who changes lightbulbs and plunges toilets shouldn’t be able to recite poetry from memory.

        1. Degreed doesn’t mean educated. Especially if the degree is in something other than engineering or sciences. I worked as a stationary engineer in a university. Got sent up to fetch a non-working hassock fan for repair. All the hassock fans in the facility were ancient, but worked. So I’m walking through this office full of people with MAs and Ph.D.s, looking at all the cords laying on the floor that belonged to all the other fans. And could see bright shiny copper through the ancient cracked rubber insulation. I took all the fans, but had to carefully explain the the Ph.D. in charge that they were working, but DANGEROUS. Pointing out that you could see the bare copper wasn’t enough- I had to go into detail why that was a bad thing. 120V and living things aren’t compatible…. They had them all back the next day. And we walked all the other offices in the building that week looking for bare copper. Found some on ancient lamps as well as fans.

          This was in the mid 1990s. The refrigerator in our office had a compressor on top. It was older than me. It’s probably still there. Because the people who know how to fix it have it.

          1. BTW, I have a BS in PolySci. That and $1.07 with tax will get you any size Coke at McDonald’s when they’re running a special. A BS in PolySci gets you an entry level job, possibly useful for a 22 year old. For a 39 year old coming off Navy active duty, it’s a nice piece of paper to hang on the wall. Operating boilers pays more.

          2. I got a BA in history, then an Associates in aviation repair and flew for a living before going back to college. The maintenance people loved me because I didn’t call them until I’d checked the Oscar Foxtrot Foxtrot switch, the plug, the other end of the plug, and looked into the adjacent room to see if it had electricity. Then I’d write up the problem, its history, and what I’d checked. Saved everyone a great deal of time, since I spoke a little Electricity and more Plumbing/Hydraulics.

          3. Dad was one of those people who ‘barely’ had a degree, so to speak (he graduated something called ‘pre-med’ – something taken before taking either degrees in medicine or nursing) but he regularly ran circles around the ‘academics’ since he was such a voracious reader. That, and he helped people studying for their various degrees write their papers for a fee (they were good in their field, but being foreign and with English as a second or third language, couldn’t convey what they wanted in paper.) This wasn’t ‘hand Dad the research and have him write it’ per se, but he’d effectively study what they were doing, so he could understand what they wanted to say and write while discussing with the client, THEN write it; with the caveat that if they didn’t get a certain grade (I think 90% minimum?) he wasn’t supposed to get paid. And a number of these people were studying agriculture, engineering, waste management, architecture… then he’d get interested and start reading in depth on his own.

            The lack of a string of letters after his name was a source of contention from jealous rivals when he was taking the second exam that allows ascension in rank (to Minister Counselor and from there, Ambassador.) His patron, Senator Ople, who was utterly delighted with how he and Dad could devour books and talk about a truly massive range of topics, told them to put him to the test, challenge his knowledge. When Senator Ople died, Dad was utterly bereft, having effectively lost a second father (Granddad was the one who instilled a love of reading and knowledge in Dad.)

            I wish I had even a fraction of what he read and knew under my belt.

            1. I wish I had even a fraction of what he read and knew under my belt.
              A good thing to aspire to.

              Remember he had a lot of life…and that the stuff you take for granted, he very well may have gotten all excited because it was a new shiny he didn’t know about.

              The hunger for knowing, and joy in learning, seems to work that way.

            2. See, you can clip that and use it to start the monograph about your Dad.

              You don’t have to cough up an encyclopedia, you know. Write a few pages of anecdotes, then send it to someone else who knew him, and let them add their own stories, or “oh no, it wasn’t like that, it really happened this way” or whatever. A few circuits around the family, and you could edit it into a family memoir.

              1. The more entertaining stories, anyway. I’d still would’ve loved to see the ones where his jaunts around his home town was followed by a parade of people – his friends; then the guys who had served time in Manila’s toughest prison having appointed themselves his bodyguards; and a cluster of weeping and praying female relatives. (Dad had pissed off the local Powers That Be with his self-published satirical commentary magazine, and for a while there was a very heavy rumor that he was going to ‘meet an accident’…)

                That one was told to my Mom before she married my Dad by my long-deceased grandfather, who, from all accounts, had a quirky, understated sense of humor.

            3. Keep in mind that the purpose of an education is to teach you how* to think, to train you to sift through information and distinguish facts from opinions and then assemble those into a coherent whole. The goal is development of the auto-didactic person, one capable of revising held beliefs on the basis of new data.

              Simply accumulating facts until diploma issuance doesn’t recognize that human knowledge is ever-evolving and requires as much maintenance as your lawn.

              *not what

              1. Well, I AM an idiot! I’d never thought of education in just that way.
                I did love college, but I was one who read EVERYTHING, because it was interesting to learn. I work just fine without the cage of the university.
                Right now, I’m studying for my Life, Accident, and Health Insurance License. Please, in the future, show some respect for your insurance person – the amount of legal and regulatory crap they have to learn for the license is truly amazing. It’s taking me a fair amount of effort to commit it to memory for the test.

        2. I have a friend who is a big tall guy, often taken as unintelligent by the unsuspecting. You’d never make that mistake talking with him, but sadly lots of people judge on appearances.

          1. A friend of mine is one of those 6’5 giant Portuguese; he could pass as Larry Correia’s older brother. He’s a network tech.

            He’s also had panicked office workers call the police more than once, when they found him in an equipment closet with wire crimpers and a test probe…

            Whatever the hidden cues are that set off panic and fear, he has them. I suspected pheromones, but decided not to mention it. He’s the sort who would search eBay for some vintage Hai Karate…

            1. Older son. Takes a walk to rest from studying for his medical boards. Three neighbors call the police about a Latin Male skulking around the neighborhood. no, seriously.

              1. Even admitting their mother is likely prejudiced in their favor, I can hardly imagine either one of them “skulking.” Absentmindedly trampling someone while they’re lost in thought, yes. Skulking, no…

            2. I’d guess bodylanguage. Especially if he had a late growth spurt, or was in one of those areas where idiots will decide to take on the big guy.

              1. Body language does a LOT. I’m reminded of when my parents took us to The Lido (all of us were teens) and afterward, we were standing outside on the Champs Elysees, chatting and waiting for our parents, holding a bottle of champagne. Turned out they were watching with vast amusement as the throngs of people walking past were giving us a wide berth, enough that we were an island of 3 people. Apparently my younger brothers somehow gave off the air of “being deadly dangerous thugs bodyguarding a Tong or Yakuza princess” – despite our just standing there, chatting and laughing. We looked, to adult eyes, ‘too confident and relaxed’ as if ‘nothing would DARE come approach or attack us.’

                It still amuses us kids, over twenty years on.

                1. I don’t “get” most body language, so that’s exactly why I thought of it– I scared the crud out of a high school sort-of friend because when the “tough New York punk” girl was trying to threaten me with body language, I was still focused on the actual job we were supposed to be doing, which was me teaching her to do the cleaning stuff at the fast food place. Apparently I was supposed to be threatened by her acting like…um…every Italian lady ever. ^.^

                  Maybe that’s why Americans piss folks off. Too many of us have an assumption that tons of folks have #RandomGuns and so no, random idiot with a weapon isn’t THAT much of a problem, compared to the risk of them being shot dead before they do more than threaten you.

                  1. I think it had to do with how Dad was teaching us to stand – be confident and proud, without being arrogant. We were relaxed, but alert. And we didn’t give off the ‘prey’ vibe a lot of people do these days, which I’ve been noticing a lot, quietly.

                2. I think that’s part of the fun of people watching, really– making stories about what people are thinking, along with making stories about the folks themselves.

                  Last time Elf and I went out to eat in San Diego, there was a guy who was a freaking awesome storyprompt for an Elf who was kinda stuck on the 70s. Dude was just PERFECT, drop him in the background of a 70s movie and nothing would change.

                  1. People watching is FUN – and yes, you make stories about the people you see. It was one of my favorite things to do while out and about in Paris. I still do it on occasion, and apparently it baffles people because I’m never bored and always entertained.

        3. Meaning that in her world the guy who changes lightbulbs and plunges toilets shouldn’t be able to recite poetry from memory

          See… I would expect that from a university maintenance man, because I was always told that half (or more) of the university maintenance men are working as maintenance men to finance their degrees…

      3. Yet I’ve read accounts from a couple different sources that worked with Bush Jr. that said he was surprisingly intelligent. One of which said he would ask for a thorough briefing on something, sit and listen to it once, and then months later when he needed that information again was clearly able to recall it in detail, without another briefing.

        I wasn’t always happy with what GWB did (as if me being happy with everything ANY politician did is remotely possible), but the whole “Bush is dum” meme was clearly not true.

        1. George W Bush qualified to fly the F-102. Anybody calling him dumb needs to qualify on the F-102 or STFU.

          Per Wiki:
          A member of the Century Series, the F-102 was the USAF’s first operational supersonic interceptor and delta-wing fighter. It used an internal weapons bay to carry both guided missiles and rockets. As originally designed, it could not achieve Mach 1 supersonic flight until redesigned with area ruling. The F-102 replaced subsonic fighter types such as the Northrop F-89 Scorpion, and by the 1960s, it saw limited service in the Vietnam War in bomber escort and ground-attack roles. It was supplemented by McDonnell F-101 Voodoos and, later, by McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom IIs.

          From the 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron:
          … ANG members of the period who we’ve been able to locate indicate that only highly qualified pilot candidates were accepted for Delta Dagger training because it was such a challenging aircraft to fly and left little room for mistakes. According to the Air Force Safety Center, the lifetime Class A accident rate for the F-102 was 13.69 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours, and the rate was especially high during the early years of the plane’s service.

          This poor safety record may have been due in part to a deadly flaw in the aircraft’s design that caused an engine stall and loss of control under a certain combination of angle of attack and airspeed frequently encountered during takeoff. According to a former F-102 pilot we’ve interviewed, this problem caused the plane to roll inverted and resulted in several fatal crashes. Numerous accidents were also encountered during landing because of the plane’s high angle of attack and airspeed that reduced the pilot’s visibility and reaction time. These factors have traditionally been two of the primary disadvantages of delta wing aircraft and explain why the pure delta wing design was later abandoned. Today’s delta wing aircraft are typically equipped with leading edge extensions or canards that improve safety and performance. Luckily, F-102 operators overcame these deficiencies thanks to good pilot training and control lockouts that prevented the plane from reaching extreme conditions, and the F-102 went on to become one of the safer fighters of its day.

          Regardless, the F-102 was still far more dangerous to fly than today’s combat aircraft. Compared to the F-102’s lifetime accident rate of 13.69, today’s planes generally average around 4 mishaps per 100,000 hours. For example, compare the F-16 at 4.14, the F-15 at 2.47, the F-117 at 4.07, the S-3 at 2.6, and the F-18 at 4.9. Even the Marine Corps’ AV-8B, regarded as the most dangerous aircraft in US service today, has a lifetime accident rate of only 11.44 mishaps per 100,000 flight hours. The F-102 claimed the lives of many pilots, including a number stationed at Ellington during Bush’s tenure. Of the 875 F-102A production models that entered service, 259 were lost in accidents that killed 70 Air Force and ANG pilots.

          1. The whole “century series” of fighters were a fuster-cluck. They exemplify my stance that the USAF’s main (or possibly sole) criterion for purchasing an airframe was looks.

            The 102 was a turkey, but at least it wasn’t the 104…

            1. awww, what you have against the 104?
              Well other than it tells you it is full of fuel by leaking out for 5 minutes, or the landing strip is best over 10,000 feet, because if your chute doesn’t open, you need a LOT of space to stop the thing, or you could cut yourself on the leading edges, or . . .
              Well, it was Fast.
              Makes a decent Land Speed Record car when you take the wings off and add better wheels to the frame.

          2. Too bad the fake patch can’t use real latin.

            Anyway, the 102 and 106 were where the air force started to notice information overload.

        2. As best I can tell, it comes from three places:
          not agreeing with what he did/said (you disagree thus you dumb)
          stupidity as a moral failing, in which case it was just a way to accuse him of being evil without needing evidence
          W is one of those folks who didn’t drop his accent.

          That last one is actually kind justified a little in history and human norms– most people lose their accent in about two years. Some rare folks will pick up an accent in the course of a single conversation, and some folks never lose it.
          Well, use to be, folks would go to college. For years. And stay in those circles. So someone with an accent WOULD be ignorant, to someone in educated circles, because there weren’t any “everyone has a southern accent” universities.
          This knee-jerk is edging up on being a century out of date, from rough reckoning, but it IS justifiable on the “hey they’re wearing a suit they probably aren’t going to mug me” level.

          1. This knee-jerk is edging up on being a century out of date, from rough reckoning, but it IS justifiable on the “hey they’re wearing a suit they probably aren’t going to mug me” level.

            I’m really not sure what it says about me that I instantly pictured suit-wearing mobsters with tommy guns. Which… is also edging up on a century out of date, isn’t it? Good grief.

            1. I don’t grok it, but I’ve had it explained to me that the specific type of suits they were wearing were like…how drug dealers these days will spend Way Too Much on fancy nikes or something. The style actually said something, because everybody who wasn’t a manual laborer on his way to/from work was in a suit.

              1. Dress codes in that era were extremely detailed.

                You could communicate a lot by what you wore.

                1. ^^^Yes.

                  I still can’t see it, I just know that THAT out fit, in THAT color, was OK, but the one that looks almost the same wasn’t.

                  My grandfather– the Army ski-squad dude who became a banker– was considered kinda cutting edge because he got what grandma called a “zoot suit” made in “purple” cloth in Italy.

                  Given the reporting body there, it could’ve been anything from a normal suit in stripped cloth with a hint of purple, to something Joker would’ve been delighted to wear.

    2. The entire US collegiate system has the worldview of the Supreme Soviet, or perhaps the Japanese military circa 1941.

      They’re at the top of their social structure, everything they know or do is absolute fact, and no wrongthink is permitted.

      The Real World(tm) is something they perceive only through carefully filtered Narrative from approved media sources.

      1. I’m not sure about the Japanese – recall the rampant assassination of political opponents was basically the Japanese military’s format of political expression from the 1920s onward, up to and including the somewhat-keystone-cops attempt on the Emperor to head off surrender in 1945.

        While that is “dissent not allowed”, it also points out that there were a pile of differing opinions taht had to be knocked off extralegally.

        Now comparing academe with the CPSU Supreme Soviet fits pretty darn well, save for the formally recognized authority of central control. Adademia’s groupthink and lockstep is actually pretty remarkable given the distributed form of corrective mechanisms.

        It’s kind of a good argument for the enhanced efficacy of decentralized local control when you think it through.

        1. The other fundamental tenet that schools are poisoning people with is the dogma that the economic pie is a fixed size and that the proper role of government is to slice the pie, rather than protecting the liberty of people so that they can make the pie bigger resulting in everyone getting more. The Democratic Party fundamentally rejects JFK’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” and has gone all in on Marxism.

      2. They’re at the top of their social structure, everything they know or do is absolute fact, and no wrongthink is permitted.

        The Real World(tm) is something they perceive only through carefully filtered Narrative from approved media sources.

        While I do not believe that “learning to code” (programming…) is The Great Solution some claim, it might be useful for some, even if they never do anything more with it, to learn… The Machine Does Not Care. about whatever you believe. The code runs or it don’t – and “don’t” includes “sort of runs” and “runs but the results aren’t right.” There are no ‘woke’ computers.

        1. There are no ‘woke’ computers.

          Thank the Great Author that they don’t exist.

          Either they’d completely crash or they’d find a way to take over. 😈

          1. Embrace the predictive power of “And”.

            Also note that as “woke” is really code for “implement feudalism”, any Woke AI would by necessity immediately implement a takeover plan to put itself on top in compliance with it’s belief system.

            1. Considering how well “woke” humans think, I suspect “woke” computers would be worse at thinking. 😈

        2. I used to think “learn to code” was a good idea. But for most people, that seems to stop at “learning a bunch of stuff.” They never make the leap to effectively *doing* much with it.

          Nowadays my view point is that “learn to code” is more like “learning English.” Learning English is fine, but you need more than vocabulary, grammar, and syntax if you want people to pay your for your ability to string words together.

          1. IMO there’s a difference between “learning to code” and “learning to program”. 😉

            1. Amen. Truth.

              “Learning to Code” VS “Learning to Program” VS “actually delivering something, that not only works, but is useful to the people it is being delivered to.”

          2. Aye, Any damn fool can “code.” It takes more to *program* and much more to generate Something Useful. (And ‘Useful’ might even be only of value to one, beyond demonstration, but that is still, at its core, useful. “Demonstration useful” is another matter.)

            1. “Demonstration useful” OMG the # of times I’ve heard. “Oh. That’s fantastic! Now we can sell it. You have a month to polish it off.”

              I honestly think “proof of concept for demonstration” is in every experienced programmer’s repertory of repeated nightmares.

              That & here is a set of dummy test data, because we can’t give you real data, to test with. Of coarse the program works with the made up dummy test data. Program then always will crash with actual real data when system is in the hands of the client. Every. Time.

              In that I was lucky in my career. Only had to deal with the latter once, when I didn’t have the power to protest. The person who had to deal with the fallout, wasn’t me. In fact my last job, client IT had a fit, but mutual clients overruled them. How else do you think I found out clients (book keepers & accountants) were whining about -25 * -2 -50. That’s the least & easiest.

              1. Writing about “last job” & programming. I’ve mentioned in other posts, that the last company I worked for was sold to a “collector of system”. Essentially they pickup the small private or limited incorporated family software companies with one major product.

                Company has been official owner since 1/1/2019. They “visited” their new acquisition, Monday, 1/7, where all employees & former owner were there for a “Town Hall” meeting. Thursday, 1/10, the first person was “let go”, as there was “no need for R&D”. To say that the remaining people, including the person who “was suppose to be in charge of resources & direction with guidance”, are a tad panicked, is a bit of an understatement.

                Current rumor/speculation, if you can call it a rumor when there are 5 programmers (OTOH they don’t know, so panic), is they will be shuffled into minimal maintenance & support on the old product, while off shore cheap programmers are handed the product code (& snap shots of client actual data) to rewrite in more current tools. At which point … who knows.

                Any of the programmers here seen this before?

                Please note, client actual data will include client employee personal information, including in some cases payroll & everything that comes with that. Also their clients & vendor company information.

                  1. I’m retired.

                    Yes. I pointed this out to my “sources”. One is IT & already volunteers for small local school district IT, so might be able to get hired there; means a drop in salary. The other is early/mid-forty (?) has worked there 21+ years (I was the newest hire 15 years ago now, & no one had been hired for 5 years previously), not sure of previous experience, if that even matters at this point. A third is mid-forty (?) but whose spouse told me she “retired early” because of a family trust that expands as the prior generation passes (many fewer in her generation).

                    Of the remaining employees, three are pushing 70 (including the one let go), no matter how prepared or not they are for retirement, mentally & financially. Three have been only there for 3 years or less; one who is over 50 (second career due injury at prior career, so help from work retraining, first job in new career). The last is the one who has been there for 27 years & technically in charge, mid-40s (again ?).

                    ALL have been using programming tools that were out of date in 2004 … working on the same system. What I don’t know is what they did programming before starting there. Or what they do on their own time to keep their skills current. I do know, nothing was offered through the company.

                    Trust me. I’m well aware of how the experiences they have from that programming job compare to what I did in the two jobs I had before I started there. Which yes, included working with not-always-current technologies. But, multiple programming languages, tools, & systems, & industries. To the point where in 2004, the new programmer there, was expected to be not productive for 6 to 10 or 12 months; I was productive within the first month (of getting a computer), with tools I did not know, on a system I didn’t know. Other than one, excluding the 3 newest, because really don’t know them, not the most flexible professional bunch, based on limited shift in techniques, grouching, & not following through.

                    … they are so much in trouble.

                    1. > ALL have been using programming tools that were out of date in 2004

                      That doesn’t matter if they know how to program. The tools, APIs, and implementations change almost monthly, structure and algorithms do not.

                      Of course, checkbox HR people who want “5 years of experience” with a compiler that came out six months ago are always a hassle…

                    2. True & True. Plus they all have to worry about age discrimination. Opps, I’m sorry, HR’s won’t discriminate against age, nope, won’t happen, they’ll be:

                      1) Over qualified
                      2) Want too high of a salary, despite the fact that their current their salaries are anything to brag about in the industry (trust me).
                      3) Be “2nd choice”
                      4) Not filling the position due to (something)
                      5) Don’t have quite the experience wanted

                      I’m sure others in the group can add to the list (hey it has been 15 years since I was last on the job market, didn’t actually keep the list of rejection reasons.)

    3. Thus is entirely it. You see, once all the “bad people” are eliminated or neutralized, then the Golden Age will begin, and nothing will ever change. All solutions to social problems must be perfectly functioning solutions that will work forever and ever without adjustment, or else nothing should be done at all. Once equality and equilibrium are achived, nothing will ever disturb them. Ever. This is how they think.

      1. “…once all the “bad people” are eliminated or neutralized, then the Golden Age will begin”

        This is true. What they don’t realize is that THEY are the “bad people”.

        1. Well….

          There is the problem that the “Bad People” includes all Humans. 😈

          Part of the stupidity of the Progressives is that they don’t believe that “Bad People” includes them.

          I hope nobody here thinks they are the Perfect People. 😉

    4. They are Men of System.

      The man of system, on the contrary, is apt to be very wise in his own conceit; and is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it. He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it.

      He seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them; but that, in the great chess-board of human society, every single piece has a principle of motion of its own, altogether different from that which the legislature might chuse to impress upon it. If those two principles coincide and act in the same direction, the game of human society will go on easily and harmoniously, and is very likely to be happy and successful. If they are opposite or different, the game will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.

      ― Adam Smith

  3. Some years ago Michael Barone wrote a book, Hard America, Soft America: Competition vs. Coddling and the Battle for the Nation’s Future, addressing the different experiences in school versus reality. The key, of course, is that reality has the only vote that matters. Snowflake demands can delay the Day of Reckoning but cannot defer it forever — and reckoning delayed is reckoning magnified.

    The schools have taught crap for decades now, but shoveling more of it does not make it less noxious nor completely bury the truth. America has succeeded because there has always been a demand for people who cut through the crap. Coddling can never ultimately win for the same reason that paying the Danegeld always ends badly.

    1. Establishment schools, in whatever country, always have a marked tendency to teach crap. Look at Britain in the late 18th Century; to attend the important Universities (Cambridge and Oxford) you had to profess the Anglican Creed….and in consequence a startling number of the best innovative mins of the era had not gone to University, but had attended what were then called ‘dissenting academies’.

      I don’t see brilliant thinkers coming out of the likes of Bob Jones University…yet. But it could happen. The Dissenting Academies were, after all, primarily Religious Schools dedicated to much more Primitive Evangelical sects.

      1. Bob Jones is…unlikely. They have their own version of groupthink going on, and my admittedly limited sample of their graduates is not encouraging.
        But, as TXRed pointed out, Hillsdale has interesting stuff.

        1. Likewise. But I do have fond memories of the time I accidentally stole a tour from their docent (apparently I could witter on about Renaissance art more amusingly thans he could), and my teacher mother’s reaction to my description of their religious art gallery. “They have a TITIAN!!!!!” “…it’s a teeny-tiny Titian?” “IT’S. A. TITIAN.”

          (My high-school bestie’s family were all devout BoJos until their oldest got expelled for touching his fiancee’s knee. Then they stopped.)

      2. Seems to me that the dissenting academies could offer a student several things: 1. Competent instruction 2. study materials 3. people to talk to about subjects of interest 4. funding 5. freedom from repression. Their competition could compete on four of those measures, but there were not a lot of alternatives outside of a school for three of them.

        Schools still can provide some pretty good options on 1 and 2, and sometimes 3, but there seem to be a lot of great to acceptable non-school options where funding is concerned. Modern schools are credentials and some actual instruction. It is not clear to me these days that schools are truly necessary for someone of extremely high mental ability.

        And thinkers and influencers are much easier to evaluate with the significant benefit of hindsight.

        So I dunno about how soon I would be expected to be able to tell if the religious schools hypothesis were true.

  4. At 55 I’ve made a commitment to write a short story a week in 2019, in addition to my full time day job. Sure, I lost a lot of time not taking my writing seriously earlier, but better late than never.

  5. People who make predictions about the future and are terribly wrong should be punished as False Prophets. 👿

  6. “online learning for whatever fascinates you is available.”

    True, but the quality of said learning ranges from “a fraction as informative as the average book in the field” to “I am now persuaded that the Earth is flat.”

    (Side note: although this’ll never happen, because conspiracy theorists are the storytellers that coherent worldbuilding forgot, I really want to see the flat-earth account of American military history from 1941 to 1989.)

    Unless there are book referrals, or brick-and-mortar places to be directed to, or lists of the tools you’ll need, Internet learning is pretty superficial, and worse, it can be mistaken for the real thing anyway.

        1. Ah, well, formal learning is often the worst of all. The Internet can give you the vague but certain impression that the past was filled with nothing but hateful idiots who should be completely ignored in a few easy-to-read articles with colorful anecdotes. A typical high school history education does the same, but over the course of a semester spent groaning through a textbook built out of such bland sawdust that its contents are guaranteed to be forgotten in five years.

          Really, John Taylor Gatto was right about everything except why we have the problem and what to do about it. And that’s a pretty substantial amount to get right.

            1. 1+ If John Taylor Gatto had errors, they were fine rather than gross errors, at least when it came to his criticisms of “education” as it has presumed to call itself.

              1. his analysis of the American Educational system is valid up until 1991, which is before the self esteem movement took hold.

            2. And I disagree, he was hugely right.

              He grasped the forest while most others were wandering around lost among the trees.

    1. Nah. I’ve learned quite a bit of Latin and also how to fix my vacuum without problems, and at much higher levels than a book I could read.
      Also, my husband is off on Vedic maths again… He used to have to bribe people to bring him books from India.

      1. I have access to a pretty good library, but I’ve also been getting copies of average or better books in the field online.

    2. True, but the quality of said learning ranges from “a fraction as informative as the average book in the field” to “I am now persuaded that the Earth is flat.”

      You need help finding better sources!

      I’d pick Khan Academy against my high school math books instantly, Catholic Answer’s website (and EWTN, and Magis, and countless others) is above average for theology books even if you limit it to those by folks who actually know theology and then further limit apples to apples for that; hobby historians like Roger Pearse and Donald McClarey (of The American Catholic) are better at citing sources than all but the most scholarly of history books, and while Wikipedia is justly recognized as being extremely untrustworthy, it is roughly tied with Encyclopedia Britannica for accuracy.

      Don’t get me started on the videos of things like “how to change the air filter in your 2005 Ford Fiesta” or leather working classes that my mother, who could make a living from her leatherworking, says are equal or better than the live classes and superior to most books.

    3. I’ll go with Sturgeon’s Law here. At least, online, the 90% that’s crap isn’t likely to cost you boatloads of money. I hate to spend tens of dollars on a book that’s useless. (I’m old; my textbooks seldom damaged more than a 50 dollar bill per book. Usually.)

      I’ll use any source that has useful information. If you limit yourself to a book, you’ve placed your learning in the hands of some gatekeeper. Consider that a book on a new topic is going to take a year to write and get to press. This might be too long, and that quality check has barely begun when it hits the bookstores.

      1. Here’s the thing: you apprise yourself on up-to-the-minute info. Then you write posts and comments apprising other people of same. Those who listen josh around; those unwilling to listen start engaging flame wars; and when that’s done, the next articles have been put up, not to mention all kinds of fanfic and cat videos and the upshot is that unless it was something quick and dirty like making a donation or switching your cell carrier (Charity Mobile FTW!), actually doing something about the up-to-the-minute info is left in the dust assuming it ever entered your head to begin with. The Internet is just too much fun to leave for patient, real-life labor.

        1. There are videos on YouTube that are as good as written articles. Cf. Ben Shapiro and Dennis Prager. You don’t need the internet to get distracted.

        2. I submit that the problem isn’t with the source of the education, but how (and whether) it’s actually absorbed. You can get information from Youtube, forums (if it exists, dunno), technical journals, magazines, books, scrolls, and sitting at the other end of a log.

          If you’d rather play mumbletypeg than learn, you ain’t gonna learn. If you want to learn, you can find gold in various places.

  7. Reality educates.
    I know a young woman who once thought the Army was a terrible career because all soldiers were, you know, crazed baby killer or something. Second act, derived from school and TV.
    Three guesses who she married.
    Third act.

    1. I knew someone who thought the same thing, then I hit with upside the head with reality – my husband was enlisted, yes he got Basic but then went on to work in fields other than infantry. Guy was borderline suicidal because he couldn’t find work in his field (I forget what, it had something to do with computers) that wasn’t exploitative (very low pay, long hours, the closest he could get was game testing) just a couple of years into Obama; at one point was homeless and sleeping in his car, and only contact to me was library computer. Yelled at him to get himself to a shelter temporarily and enlist.

      He works adjacent to the military medical field (something about inspecting and repairing equipment) and occasionally still thanks me for kicking his ass and tearing down his prejudices about the military. Enlisting gave him a stability in life he hadn’t had since childhood.

  8. > didn’t know the difference between that and adverbs.

    She probably had a college degree in English as well as “education.”

    My Dad asked me to go along to a parent-teacher conference for my youngest sibling. He had spent too many years around airplanes and jet engines and his hearing wasn’t so good any more.

    So we’re there, wedged into little kiddie desks, while the teacher babbles “Wuffa mubbah goofpee bladdah”, and after the third or fourth time I asked her to repeat herself, she hefted herself out of her chair, leaned forward, and shouted “Wuffa yo pobbah? AH GOTS DE DEGRIH EN EENLISH!”

    Dad looked over at me and said, “She probably does, too.”

    …and we got up and left.

          1. Heaviest accent instructor I had in college was in Business Writing. The (I think Spanish-speaking South American) accent wasn’t the problem. The problem was he turned what seemed like Every.Darned.Sentence into a question.

            “The next paper will be due …when? This Friday at start of class.”

            “It is always important when writing a business communication to…what? Start with Subject, then Purpose, then Plan.”

            “I have noticed that many students often…what?”

            And there was always a long pause, as if he was expecting an answer.

            Drove me freaking nuts.

            Still got an A.

            1. My worst teacher (likely good enough teacher, but SO *annoying*) would always take the last syllable of sentence and prolonnnnnnnng (it). It was a vocal sedative. Put almost everyone to sleep.. when they weren’t thinking how best to commit a murder to end thaaaaaaat.

    1. I read RAH’s rant in TNotB about Education education, but dealing with an old school teacher (my BIL) and his observations, then dealing with a person who tried to teach Kindergarten opened my eyes. RAH understated the problems, I fear.

  9. Ages ago, I had a HS English teacher I did not get along with. Which gave my folks grief, right up until we had student/parent swap day.
    Dad came home from school and said he understood the problem- seems he got in trouble with the teacher for a lot of the same reasons.

    1. I know an elementary school teacher who observed to me that, in her beginning days, when she had a student with some kind of behavioral quirk that interfered with either learning or classroom decorum, she would carefully prepare for Parent-Teacher conferences, in hopes of enlisting the adults to help their child improve.
      Often, after visiting with the parents briefly, she would just discretely drop her notes in the waste basket.

  10. The concept of the “American Dream” has been corrupted by people pushing the Marxian Ponzi Scheme.
    They define it as “you will automatically become richer than your parents by right & entitlement… as long as you spend lots and lots of money to get the right credentials.”
    Which is funny. Most American Socialist can’t get the fact that the free education & guaranteed jobs they want would remove the element of choice. If they think their current jobs are a work-a-day nightmare, just wait.

    What the American Dream is- you aren’t tied to your class or family business when it comes time to work. You’re not assigned a job for life by the government. You have a choice of what you want to do as a job, and are allowed to succeed or fail- and when you inevitably fail, you can start over again.

  11. If this is the third act, I’m not sure if we’re on the three-act structure, the five-act play structure, or the seven-act hourly TV series structure.

      1. That would explain why my long-lost twin brother impersonated me while I was suffering from amnesia.

  12. I’m 45 years old. January of ’18, I planned a trip to Poland to visit a relative over Thanksgiving. Shortly thereafter I decided to take up learning Polish so that I would not be entirely dependent on the fact that everyone else in the world has given up on Americans and learned English.

    I spent 9 months studying anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours a day as I had time. Duolingo, secondhand Pimsleur and Michel Thomas CDs in the car and during workouts, lots of free websites that were apparently only live because others love teaching for the sake of it, watching Ultraviolet undubbed on Netflix with the subtitles on. I spent well under $100, all told, on studies. But when I got there, I could generally make myself understood for anything I needed (OTOH, I frequently didn’t understand the answers. Poles speak *quickly* and the one thing I could not manage was any in-person conversation practice, wrong part of the US). I took a placement test for a school just to satisfy my own curiosity and would have entered as an intermediate student of Polish, without once having set foot in a classroom.

    I went to all that effort for a two week trip, just because I wanted to see if I could do it. And I knew I would get more out of it if I could at least make a guess at reading signs and historical markers. That is what this century has brought us, the ability to feed the Elephant’s Child in ways our ancestors never could have imagined. My spikes of intense interest tend to run 6-9 months, tops, and I am always looking for the next one when one peters out. But the amount of knowledge that can be acquired in that time, with minimal outlay, would have astounded anyone who lived even 20 years ago.

    My next reinvention of myself is to get back in the woodshop, I’m itching to make sawdust. Next fall we will see what’s next. Maybe Polish again, I may make one more trip (and this time pay to chat with native speakers). Or relearn that German I haven’t used in 20 years. Or maybe back to finishing some of that needlework that’s languishing in the basket of unfinished objects. Or rock climbing. It doesn’t matter because whatever it is, the knowledge is there for the taking and the skill for the building. I’m on at least Act four (well, career four at any rate), and I’ve got plenty of time for a few more.

    1. I’m starting to learn some Czech. I’ll be in Poland with a group, but in the Czech Republic on my own, off the beaten path. German, I’ve been told, is not recommended, so survival Czech it is. Slovaks are less bothered by German, interestingly.

      1. That sounds about right. I got an earful (and then some) about Germans from a museum docent in Warsaw. (Although if something is signed in 3 or more languages the third will be German so there is a lot of tourism).

        But given what I know about the history of central Europe, I suspect the Czech/Slovak divide probably has to do with who was historically allied with/shared territory with whom and probably predates even WWII. But that’s really just a hypothesis, I haven’t really studied those countries.

        I did get massively cussed out in German by a Roma beggar in Wrocław when husband told her in Russian that he wouldn’t give her money. Unfortunately, German has been our home cussin’ language for 2 decades so that part I understood fine. Then he started shouting in gutter Spanish he’d picked up in Panama because that’s how old vets roll. 😉

        1. I want to relearn German, if nothing else, so I can cuss in the language again because of how satisfyingly savage it sounds to me. French is a pissantly weak language to swear in, but I’m told if I want to really get angry, Russian is the way to go.

          1. A trainer I work with is learning some German, so her dogs can be bilingual 🙂 Seriously, not a bad idea if you are working an animal in public. Not just military or protection work either. Not me. I have enough trouble pronouncing some English words. Taken to using silent cues instead.

              1. It’s amazing how a dog’s vocabulary varies proportional to its interest in something…

                Ours all knew every synonym for “car”, “ride”, and “outside”, even when they were spelled out. Yet they seemed completely deaf to all variants of “No!”…

                Sometimes I wonder about the whole “communicating with aliens” thing when we can’t even talk Dog, and they’ve co-evolved with us for the last forty thousand years and grow up right beside our children.

                “Mathews… we’re getting another one of those strange ‘aw blah es span yol’ sounds.”

                1. Aunt and Uncle had a Malamute that could recognize a Sonic drive-in from blocks away. It wasn’t just the one they went to semi-regularly where she got an ice cream. They were in some different part of town the dog had never been to and she’d be in the back of their SUV going bonkers and they couldn’t figure out why. On the return trip they noticed the Sonic down a few blocks on a side street, and she again was doing her howls and growls of excitement.
                  They relented and stopped in.
                  Later they were up in Baton Rouge and she could see one ahead and again went nuts.

            1. Heck most Americans do not understand that canines understand some versions of “English” better than others. “Heya!” works better than “Here!” and “Git!” is more effective than “Get (out of here)!”

              And no, I will NOT translate bovine for you. I have standards. They might be low, but damnit, I DO have them.

          2. Weirdly, while hubby speaks fairly fluent Russian (former Army linguist) his go to for swearing remains either German or the sort of absolute gutter Spanish you only learn by hanging out with the unsavory types that hang out *just* off post.

          3. I have long suspected that Japanese would be an excellent language in which to cuss.

            One place where I was employed required a four character password, revised every month, so I opted for a series of four-letter words as easily remembered and an expression of my feelings about having to log in. Sadly, I very quickly discovered I suffer an dearth of vocabulary in that arena and had to abandon the scheme.

            1. Swearing in Russian is either law-abiding, or it’s prison-shady mat’. And admitting to knowing mat’ can get you into trouble, while saying it in the wrong person’s hearing is unwise. Sorta like going around Japan with the wrong tattoos , while calling people aniki.

              The Japanese do not cuss. Technically. They have very rude words for “you”, and less than complimentary (or sarcastically complimentary) registers of speech.

              1. There are also a lot of ways to refer to supposed unsavory personal habits or stupidity, but most of them are surprisingly archaic in origin and form. Which is why people do not tell you that part, because you would not take the words seriously and then someone would beat you up.

          4. We picked up a copy of “Where the Wild Things Are” in German because we both read and speak a little, and it is very satisfyingly growly.

        1. That’s probably because the Poles know that if it comes to a war with Russia, they’ll be mostly working with us or the Brits.
          The French? The Germans? Ha!

          1. That and because so many young Poles work in the UK and send money home.

            But they are definitely one of our most reliable allies in Europe. We have a bunch of ARNG folks there right now on “exercises” (9 month deployments), but the Poles really want us to set up some permanent installations like the ones in Germany to act as a deterrent if Russia gets shirty again.

            1. #YesPlease

              bonus, they’re offering to BUILD the dang bases for us.

              Which isn’t making Germany, land of the ever increasing rents, very happy. ^.^

              1. I do recall back when some place in Germany were saying they should be rid of US bases that Poland was saying, in NO uncertain terms, “If they don’t wish you to be there, we will GLADLY have you here!” and suddenly some German mayors foresaw $$$ moving to Poland and had.. issues… with that idea.

          2. Well, I think any society would rather grease the skids so they work with the Anglosphere military than the Russian-speaking folks, and that goes double for business as well.

            Note sure what learning Italian could get you these days outside of tourism. French you could talk to the folks in some of the most s***hole places in Africa, and the yellow-vests in France. German lets you order a beer in Germany, or in Austria if you happen to not speak Austrian. Russian would I suppose work in Cuba and the FSU states, but I bet it’s been long enough that the power classes there speak English. Portuguese gets you Brazil and, um, Angola? And nobody outside the Middle Kingdom really speaks Mandarin, since the Han overlord class are hated right around their borders, but they are doing the belt-and-road thing to expand their power, so maybe Mandarin could get you out of a jam. Arabic would let you talk to folks in all the places that want to keel you. Spanish would be the other major lingua franca, which is actually amusing given how close it is to Latin.

            But for a frontline state looking forward to a possible future military alliance? English all the way.

            1. > French

              Forty years ago it would still have been a contender; lots of the Far East spoke French.

              Back in the early ’80s I worked at a place that had Laotian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian immigrants. They would often sit at the same table in the break room and talk to each other in… French. Which they were all much more proficient in than English.

              My two years of high-school French weren’t up to joining the conversation, but I could at least follow what they were talking about. Sometimes one of the others in the break room would openly wonder what they were saying; I’d listen for a moment and relay the subject. They were all convinced I was some kind of language expert…

              1. I also had two years of high school French. Enough for me to read a menu in Vietnam and realize that it was chicken, and therefore something I would eat.

                Until they brought it to the table, and then that was a no go for me.

                And then a couple of years ago, we hosted some French Sailors on board Mason for an hour or so, and I was able to remember a word or two, enough to get the trading done that I wanted.

                A little bit of language training can get you I to a whole lot of trouble. Quickly.

          3. Given some of the items I read, I wonder if, giver current readiness states, Poland might have the capacity to conquer Germany – not that they want the place.

            1. Berlin is only about fifty miles from the Polish border via the better roads. Perhaps the French protesters should make a deal with the Poles. The protesters depose the Macron regime and the Polish take Berlin and depose the Merkel regime.

      2. My stepfather was born in the Ukraine, but found himself at the mercy of the Nazis and was issued to a Czechoslovakian farmer during WW II. (The farmer wasn’t supposed to feed the slaves/help, but he was decent and disobeyed.) Not a lot of love for the Germans at any level at that farm.

        Stepdad had no comments about my consulting for a German company; possible that Mom might have neglected to mention just why I was in Europe from time to time.

              1. Having grown up in North central Wisconsin, I can parse most Yooper just fine. I will not claim all, nor the ability to speak much of it. Perhaps a telling thing is that the most “Yooper” I heard was Pa talking to the dog.

  13. I’m still on my second career, or third, but I count failed to make money at writing and working as day laborer with a History degree as one career. Went to grad school at 30 to pick up this computer stuff that people seemed to be making money at. Took it all the way from the invention of the mouse to SOAs, clouds, and, currently ontologies, AI, and data management, Soon enough I’ll retire from that and go back to writing now that I can do Indie and not worry about writing about the wrong ideas.

  14. Re academia…and even more, those who *think* they should be in academia but can’t get a position: Francis Bacon pointed out four hundred years ago that one reason for sedition and mutiny in any polity was “breeding more scholars than preferment can take off”

    1. It’s that way with any idle field. All the crats, dreamers and artists too. How do we know there is too much? In a good world, not getting paid for what they produce. Today…we are quickly tipping into the multitudes of entitlements

    2. A number of other people think I should be teaching at a university. I’m happy as a clam, thank you. The extracurricular stresses aside, and I suspect the extracurricular stresses would be even worse at Ivory Tower U.

  15. Side note: I’ve heard that what Fitzgerald meant was that Americans like the introduction and the conclusion, but aren’t that fond of the messy stuff in the middle.

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