Meeting Recap

The 6-hour Zoom meeting went well. I was one of the 3 people who attended through Zoom. Everybody else was in person.

The meeting went particularly well during the mental health workshop that I happily muted. That did wonders for my mental health.

Unfortunately, the really important part where the Dean was talking about the budget sucked bullets because the sound suddenly disappeared. I figured out that budget news were bad because a) I could see the reaction of the people in the audience and b) budget news are always bad. I think that the day a university administrator says, “we have good news regarding the budget,” we will realize that his mental health is beyond rescue.

By the way, I figured out why the university budget is always in such terrible shape. Imagine that you get your salary once a month, and whatever you don’t spend by the end of the month simply gets taken away. Every month it’s the same thing. A clean slate that wipes off the previous month. How would that impact your financial behavior? Would you make savings and try to be careful about your spending? Of course, not. It makes absolutely no sense to be careful and provident in this setup. You’ll buy a ton of little things you don’t need, would never have anything to cover unexpected emergencies, and wouldn’t be able to make a big purchase.

This is how our budget works. It gets wiped out on June 30 and starts with a clean slate on July 1. I have no reason to be careful and think long-term. Departments that are careful aren’t rewarded, and those that are profligate aren’t punished. It’s truly the dumbest system imaginable. It can only lead to unreasonable, stupid spending for the sake of spending.

Going Mental

The Chairs’ retreat includes an obligatory session on “mental health.” Why not sexual health? Nutritional? Podiatric? Back pain issues, which are intensely relevant to most professors? Vocal cord health? Eye health?

Nobody ever talks about these health issues in the work environment, no matter how widespread and serious they might be. Yet it’s “mental health” that’s supposed to have some imaginary stigma attached to it even though people can’t stop discussing it.

The Depth

It so happens that in spite of being on vacation, today I have to participate in a 6-hour-long Zoom meeting for work. (It’s a department Chairs’ retreat).

All this time, Klara is entertaining herself completely on her own, with no screens involved, and having immense fun. She had a fashion show for her dollies, built them a tree house under the table, and is now taking them to lunch at a restaurant she constructed out of armchair cushions. She’s so immersed in her play that I left a whole bag of jelly beans in full view and she isn’t even touching it.

This is what I mean by developing a healthy human subjectivity that has enough depth to offer intellectual and emotional sustenance for a person.

It’s All a Scam

Everything about this administration is a scam:

And it’s just one thing of a million. What this administration is doing to Ukraine is beyond words. But strangely, nobody is accusing it of colluding with Russia. Even more strangely, nobody even notices it’s happening. Ukraine only mattered when it could be used to smear Trump. Just like black lives only matter when they can be used to support some leftist talking point.

Towards Gated Communities

I’m reading a new novel by the Argentinean writer who specializes in the gated communities for the rich called countries. And it’s funny because she goes on and on for pages, describing a reality that is alien to most Argentineans but very normal here in the US.

There is no garbage in the streets! Cables are hidden undeground to preserve the beauty of the landscape! Houses in the same parts of the neighborhood are built in the same aesthetic! Houses located in cul-de-sacs aren’t cheaper than the rest. To the contrary, they are more expensive because people associate them with greater peace and quiet and not with an increased danger of a home invasion. There are no home invasions at all in the country! People feel completely safe!

The writing is very good but I already fell asleep twice because I know all this. I live in a neighborhood like that.

The goal of so many of the developments we are seeing – the lockdowns, the climate panic, the CRT, the BLM, the cancel culture, the destruction of our energy independence, the inflation, “the racial reckoning”, etc – is to turn us into Argentina. Only a small number of people will be able to live in such neighborhoods. They will exist as small islands of good living in a sea of violence, desperate poverty, anger, addiction, and hopelessness. The dwellers of the gated communities will live in constant fear of joining the angry, miserable, dysfunctional crowds outside of the country.

We are pissing away something really great to make half a dozen already rich guys even richer. It’s profoundly stupid.

In Florida

I’m one of the two little heads in the distance.

Everything is beautiful and amazing but God, folks, the prices have exploded. Everything is always more expensive in the tourist areas. We are used to that. But this time, the usual tourist premium is added on top of the general price increase and the result is crazy. The salary increase I’m expecting as a result of my promotion has been eaten up even before I received it.

Still, it’s the best state in the union right now.

Lives of Others

My reaction would absolutely be outrage over the violation of privacy. The games people play in their marriages are none of my business. I’m not part of their relationship, so what do I care? But lack of privacy online does concern us all.

Nobody outside of a marriage can understand what’s going on inside it and why. Having an emotional response to other people’s marriages is useless and not extremely healthy. Also, there’s no single evildoer in a marriage. If it goes bad, two people must have worked really hard to make it so.

Of course, this is all about some randy Catholic priest getting outed online and not about anybody’s marriage, so that’s a completely different story.

Book Notes: Javier Cercas’s Independencia

Remember how I finally found a good Spanish mystery novel? It was by Javier Cercas and it was titled Terra Alta.

Independence is the second novel in the series and it’s even better than the first. Cercas understands the soul of the mystery genre like few (or actually none) among Hispanic writers. The structure, the pace, the plot – everything is superb. Cercas had gotten the Premio Planeta – the second highest paying literary prize in the world – for the first novel in the series, and it was richly deserved. The man single-handedly gave Spain its own crime novel genre that isn’t a pale copy of the English-language police procedural. Everything in Cercas’s mystery novels is fresh, fun, and exciting.

The title of the novel refers to Catalonian attempts at independence. Cercas is a bit of that scared one-issue conservative I wrote about previously. He’s very much against the independence – and what reasonable person isn’t? – but feels the need to compensate by arguing that anybody who is against open borders is a dishonest, perverted fascist.

That’s OK, though. I don’t read fiction to find validation for my political beliefs. The novel is excellent, and I don’t care about anything else.

I saw several reviews whose authors complained that the novel is titled “independence” when it’s not about Catalonian independence. Those are people who either can’t read or are complete idiots. The whole novel is an argument against Catalonian independence, which is explained in every possible way. Cercas believes that independence is a plot by Catalonia’s business and political aristocracy to get more money and power for themselves. They never meant to take it as far as it all has gone. The whole point was to have a bargaining chip to extort Madrid. But then it all kind of went out of hand when people took the pro-independence slogans seriously. And now it’s a mess that nobody can unravel.

The novel is set in 2025, and I really liked that COVID was presented as an insignificant blip long in the past. Just like Catalonian independence.