Thursday, August 18, 2016

Some random stuff

* I keep seeing reviews for JD Vance's Hillbilly Elegy. Part of me wants to read it, partly because it apparently "explains" some things going on in the nation right now, but also partly because those were Very Nearly My People (but Not Quite) - I was born in Morgantown, W. Va. My parents were professors, though, so I probably wouldn't have had much contact with the people Vance wrote about.

I partly want to read it but also partly do not, because I think it would be both anger- and sadness-inducing, and as I do the vast majority of my non-work-related reading right before bed, I don't need that in my head then. (Shoot, I gave up on Gulliver's Travels because Gulliver's cynicism was making me too depressed right before bed.)

And an odd random thought: if my parents had stayed in Morgantown (they left, partly because the coal smoke bothered my mom's respiratory issues but mainly because my dad was offered a better job in Ohio), I probably would have been in a situation like I am now: one of the better-off people in an otherwise-economically-depressed area instead of how I wound up as a kid, as part of one of the "less-wealthy" families in a very rich area.

(I use quotations on "less-wealthy" because we were actually comfortably well-off: we had everything we needed, my parents never worried about "do we pay the gas bill or the water bill" and we had abundant nutritious food. It was just we were "poor" by comparison to some people in that town).

I wonder how I would have turned out differently had my parents never moved....would I have become a little snob? I know as an adult I struggle and kind of rail about the "shortage" of decent shopping in my town (and the fact that nice-but-not-essential businesses don't seem to always stick around long) but I have to acknowledge that yes, we are in one of the more economically-depressed parts of the country and maybe having to mail-order books or drive long distances for yarn is just what I have to do now.

* There's been discussion on ITFF of "Who would you be if you had been born 100 years ago?" Most people assumed it to mean "100 years before your actual date of birth" because literally 100 years ago would have been 1916 and we would all have been coming of age during the Depression....

Several women opined they'd be a lot like Anne of Green Gables. I don't know. I figured, based on my family's trajectories, I'd most likely have wound up as a farmer's wife or as a spinster schoolteacher. (100 years before my birth year would have been 1869, so I would have been "of age" in 1887. Or perhaps 1885, some school districts hired sixteen-year-olds to teach, and my maternal grandmother was 17 when she married). That is, if I didn't die of scarletina as a child. (I had it when I was 8, but of course we have antibiotics now)

Ironically, I suppose you could say in a way I am a "spinster schoolteacher" now, just with a better paycheck and more mature students. And perhaps a bit more respect, at least from some quarters, than I would have gotten as a one-room-schoolhouse teacher in the 1880s. 

* Saw a story on Consumerist (and I also saw it on the news) that McDonald's is once again jumping on the "get kids fit" train (a couple years ago they apparently put little books about healthy eating in their Happy Meals). This time it's fitness trackers and exercise stuff as Happy Meal prizes.

Consumerist commented that "that doesn't make it a Healthy Meal" but I'd also argue that for me, at least, as a kid, it wouldn't have made it a Happy Meal either. Oh, I liked the sort of disorganized exercise I got climbing trees and running around with the neighbor kids, but anything like a fitness tracker would have smacked too much of PE (one of the few classes I got Cs in because I was uncoordinated and slow and didn't get picked quickly for teams). And it would have made me sad.

I guess there aren't any kid-friendly movies out now that McDonald's got the right to distribute little toys for?

Anyway, this would have been my reaction as a kid if I had got a Happy Meal with a fitness tracker instead of a proper toy in it:

Anyway. I was about 10 when Happy Meals first came out, and there wasn't  McDonald's in my town (we were Too Tony for fast food, and anyway, the heathens who eat at those places might throw trash around!) The nearest one was, I think, in Streetsboro. We didn't go often. So I didn't get the experience of Happy Meals growing up. (And I mostly didn't like McDonald's; I was not a hamburger fan as a kid and it was only later that McNuggets made the scene).

I will confess as an adult to going to one a few times to get the toy. Some places would JUST sell you the toy for a small amount; a few others asked you to buy a food item like a sundae. I have a whole set of the Muppet Baby happy meal toys somewhere....

However, we had cereal-box prizes when I was a kid and those mostly don't exist any more, so I can't feel TOO cheated. And we had REAL toys in the Cracker Jack boxes. (I wonder what prizes they have now? I haven't eaten Cracker Jacks in several years because of concern about my teeth)

And actually? Growing up in a town largely without fast food probably was good for me, anyway: just like pop being a rare treat when I was a kid, it trained me not to expect that kind of food, that that was something you ate rarely, and it made it easier for me (as a hypertensive adult) to transition to NEVER eating it except in dire emergencies.

(Also, my family was frugal, and my mom knew that often you could feed more people more cheaply by cooking from scratch yourself. And I learned to cook from her, so again, it was not a struggle when I got out on my own and had to cook. I never had macaroni and cheese from a box until I was an adult....I admit, I used to use (and still would, if it weren't for Sodium) more convenience foods than my mom did....but then again, I work full time and keep my own house, and she JUST kept house. And I don't bake nearly as much as she does....)

(Edited to add: McDonald's probably needs to stick to little cartoon figurines as happy meal prizes. Weren't there "grown up" fitness trackers that irritated people's wrists? I know for me, wearing anything plastic/vinyl for any length of time on a wrist, especially a sweaty one, would cause skin irritation)

* There's a news story out about "laziness and intelligence." I don't have time (heh, see what I did there?) to look up the original article to see how the news media get it wrong, but the way it's being presented is, "Lazy people have more time to think so they are smarter than people who exercise a lot or are otherwise busy."

My reaction is two-fold:

1. OF COURSE they're smarter. They figured out how to get the rest of us to do all their work, didn't they?

2. More seriously: I've actually wondered "Have I gotten dumber lately" and I think it actually IS because I'm so busy (see my schedule of the other day). I barely read journal articles any more and I need to get back to doing that - I know my research creativity has taken a dive and that is not good for these ongoing "post tenure review" things where every three years we have to prove we are still An Asset, and actually, in my mind, prove we are More Than A Mere Asset. Which means at least one publication and probably a couple of presentations during that three year period, in addition to teaching, service, and all the administravia we are now expected to do. (And for people like me, who lack a stay-at-home or otherwise-less-busy spouse - even stuff like laundry and grocery shopping and mowing the lawn and all the stupid stuff you have to do to maintain hygiene or prevent your neighbors from calling the city on you).

Maybe THAT is the real reason we're sliding towards Idiocracy: so many people are so pressured with their 2.5 jobs and tax paperwork and just keeping the house free of rampant bacterial infection that they're too TIRED to think, so it's really the rather dumb tv shows that succeed, and book sales decline (I have no idea if that's true) and everything else. And also everyone is scared - hell, I'm scared about my job and things look a good bit rosier than they did in February. But still - there's that feeling of "gotta keep cranking, gotta give 110% if I only gave 100% last year*"

*And never mind that as someone who teaches stats, that kind of "percentage accounting" makes me grind my teeth in frustration.

1 comment:

Gabriel Conroy said...

I'm thinking of writing a small post at Hitcoffee about the "if I were born 100 years ago" thing. Do you mind if I link to your blog post?

I can write my post easily enough without linking to yours, but would like to give you a shout out if you're comfortable with me doing so. (I"m also not 100% sure I'm going to write something, but I like the idea of it.)