Bad Babies

About two weeks ago I listened to a This American Life podcast called “Bad Baby,” that was broadcast back in March. The lead story was about a woman whose six year old tried to drown his younger brother, holding him under the water till the parents had to rescue him. He threw his baby sister across the room. He broke his mother’s nose.

He’s eight now. They have alarms on their doors and cameras in every room. They can never leave him alone with his siblings. He’s been to countless therapists, been hospitalized, is on medication.

I’ve added her blog to my blogroll. Reading it is like reading about Elliot Rodger when he too was eight.

And this brings me to the punditry about Rodger’s rampage. He was a rich spoiled kid, he had a male-privilege sense of entitlement, he was a misogynist, he shouldn’t have been allowed to buy a gun, his parents should have gotten him help a long time ago – ad nauseam.

Read this woman’s blog, and then decide what you would do in her place. But don’t read the comments. They’re all from people who prefer to pundit.

I have no idea what she should do; what society should do about these children. But I hope somebody is thinking about it instead of pontificating.

Posted in Cultural stuff, Top news | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Fargo again

0453fd86f2004c58ccf50754dfcb1ab5The blizzard sequence is reason alone to start watching if you’re not already.

And just a note: I’ve been putting off writing about what happened in Santa Barbara because the meta analyses are so confusing and I’m having a hard time figuring out what I think about it. Maybe my Santa Barbara readers will help me out by commenting.


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They see you

indexThey follow you around the internet, watching what you click on, what you’re thinking of buying, what you write. They watch you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. They know where you shop and what you buy. Their smart math majors put it all together in complicated algorithms that predict your behavior; they sell these predictions to marketers.

The F.T.C. is investigating, says the Times.

A homely, scary example: I have a friend whose son is the C.E.O of one of these companies. I sent her a link to the article, and also happened to mention I was going to see the movie Belle that day.

She wrote back:

How’s this for irony. As I was reading the article for which you sent me the link, there was a tiny box that said Belle now playing click here to buy tickets.

One of these companies, Acxiom, decided to pretend to be transparent. You could go to a site , see what they knew about you, and then “opt out.” I thought I’d try it – this was about a year ago – since I have such an outsize horror of being spied on. I didn’t get too far – the first step is to give them your email address!

I think I’m going to move to a cabin in the woods and eat berries.





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Un lavoro strano

Patient-in-hospital-bed-600x372Italian homework. Last week we had to write an interview with someone. I wrote about a woman who had to give away her cat interviewing a kid (un ragazzo) who’d only had a cat when he was five or six who, when asked, said sure, he knew how to take care of a cat: you just feed it, give it water, and let it out (it was funnier in Italian).

She didn’t give him the cat.

This week we have to write about a strange job. I wasn’t coming up with anything till my friend Beth reminded me of my standardized patient days. How could I forget?

In case you’ve forgotten you can read about it here; maybe I’ll try the Google translate trick (not English to Italian, that would be cheating – I mean I’ll reverse translate it back into English tomorrow). We’ll see.

Meanwhile, gotta go.

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You can trust us now

indexThe application process was so arduous I thought the airport interview might even be worse. I knew they’d take our fingerprints (all ten of them), and I knew they’d take our pictures, though I didn’t know we’d have to take our glasses off, producing two racoons. But I thought it might also be more qualitative – I thought they might be looking for some of those behavioral clues that you’re concealing something, those things the TSA people with gimlet eyes are trying to ferret out as they stare grimly at the poor souls in security lines. I thought we might have to take an oath of allegiance to the country, be quizzed about our pasts, be scanned for contraband.

Nope. The only bad thing about it was that it was at six p.m. in the middle of the Memorial Day weekend, and I guess the Homeland Security guy was as unhappy to be there as we were.

Pretty soon we’ll get our trusted traveler numbers and our cards, and we’ll be able to whisk through security, just like Marc Weber Tobias.

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Memorial Day Weekend

IMG_0092I read in the Times today that you’re not supposed to ask a working person what their summer plans are because you’ll make them feel bad, especially if you’re headed off to your summer home in the Hamptons or the Jersey shore while they’re stuck freezing in their air-conditioned offices. But even when I worked this has always been my favorite holiday weekend, because it was the gateway to summer.  Maybe we’d envy those fifties-throwback wives who’d go off to the shore to await their weekend husbands, but we’d still talk of vacations, we’d finally see sunlight at the beginning and end of each day; we’d finally start to relax.

Early summer, when the garden awaits and the weeds are still small and the air is cool in the shadows and warm in the sun. And a three day weekend, when you can work in that garden or take pictures of shadows or catch up on reading or …

just do nothing.

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The efficiency expert

220px-CheaperByTheDozenI’ve written about this before, about how preoccupied I am with efficiency; about how growing up one of my very favorite books was Cheaper By the Dozen, written by a guy with twelve children who, fortunately, was an efficiency engineer. So was his wife, I just learned – they were both early advocates of scientific business management. I used to wish I was one of those children, but now I’m thinking it could have been kind of a nightmare, being scientifically managed all the time.

But anyway, I have some of this efficiency mania in me; and so, when I have a bunch of unpleasant errands to do like getting blood drawn for a TB test (required yearly for hospice volunteers, and it’s no longer that easy little skin prick) or UPSing a package or, worse, shopping for underwear, if I organize all these things in the most efficient way I can overcome the tedium by feeling inordinately pleased with myself.

You can get a lot done, but you might not end up with the most aesthetically pleasing underwear. (I was going to stick a picture of ugly underwear in here, but if you Google ugly underwear it’s pretty frightening what comes up.)


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