Monday, November 24, 2014

Epiphany #70: Long May You Run

We drove that car as far as we could, abandoned it out West.  --  Dylan

Every family has unique benchmarks that define it--first owned home, first family member to attend college, maybe citizenship or travel abroad.  And while some of those are supremely important to a family's self-identity, there are smaller accomplishments that can mean almost as much.

This week, our beloved 2001 Subaru Outback notched 200,000 miles.

For some readers, this fact no doubt earns a derisive "Big deal."  For us, though, this is a big deal.  It's the first time any car in our family, or extended family, has lasted this long.

Growing up in the 60's, my family, especially my father, fell prey to mantra of those times: Everyone needs a new car every four years.  The genius of Detroit was either that people bought that notion or that automakers figured out how to make cars that only lasted that long, or both.  Because consumers in that mindset would rarely get more than about 80,000 miles out of a car.

In fact, one of my father's related beliefs was that everything starts to go wrong on a car at around 80,000 miles.  Which is usually when he sold it to us.

The other outcome of those formative automobile-purchasing years is that my father loves to trade cars.  He likes the thrill of the negotiation, the bitter back and forth, the threat of walking away, and, ultimately, the satisfaction of being able to say "They sold me the car for less than it is worth."

He knows all of the tricks--buy at the end of the month, don't mention a trade-in until after the price has been negotiated, pay in cash (if you can).  Most of all, he likes things that are new and unproblematic.

My wife and I, on the other hand, drive cars into the ground.  Living a complex life that seeks to avoid confrontation and to neglect repair and upkeep of everything but our children, it has always been easier for us to let cars deteriorate until they are undriveable, and then to get a new one, than to keep them in prime shape for maximum trade-in value.  Our cars tend to face ignoble ends--left unrepaired at a gas station until the owner hauls it off, left in a parking space at school for months, if actually traded-in, only for little more than scrap value.  One sits in disrepair at an auto dealership right now, as it has for several weeks.

So, the Subaru.  It is something of a miracle.  It has driven to three of the four corners of America--Washington state, Maine, Key West.  It has been the primary car, at one time or another, for each of the members of our family, surviving two teenagers without incident, as well as several near brushes with no longer being our car.  In 2008, when we bought my older daughter a Subaru of her own, we were satisfied with its eight years of service, had let some things go on it, and had accepted $1500 in trade-in cash toward the new car.

But at almost the last second, I thought, wait a minute, this car has never caused us any major expense; it has to be worth more to us than $1500.  So instead of selling the car back to the dealer, I paid them $3500 to fix everything on it that needed fixing, and within four months, it became my younger daughter's car for all of high school and her first year of college.

It needed to last 8 months (of what would have been equivalent car payments) to justify that expense.  It has lasted six years.  And each time it has needed a repair, I've played that same cost/benefit analysis game of fix it costs vs. car payments.  So far, I've guessed right.

While I'm not a car guy, and while I don't place status on what car I'm driving, and while I don't particularly care what the car I'm driving looks like (as long as the stereo and the A/C work), I am admittedly quite attached to and nostalgic about the Subaru.  If it would run forever, then I would drive it forever.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Why Don't I Like You? (Reunion Reflections #2)

Miranda was sweet. She was tender and kind. She was the kind of girl who, if she took a walk in the woods, all of God's creatures would flock to her like Bambi or a Disney princess. When she said mean things about other people, it was never mockery, but disappointed criticism.

Miranda would say things like, "He's just not very nice," or "Why would a person behave like that?" or "I wish it wasn't darn so cool to be insensitive and indifferent." When she was angry, she would say things like, "Gosh, I'm angry."

When my roommate would drink himself unconscious -- not quite a monthly event, but at least seasonal -- or when he would be in the emotional throes of a breakup or relationship transition -- not quite a monthly event, but at least seasonal -- when his closest friends would not feed him from the spigot of sympathy and pity, he would flee to Miranda. She was always eager and happy to feed him the unquestioning, uncompromising support, love and pity he desperately sought.

And those of us who didn't play dat? We were grateful for Miranda. She took the burden from us. And she took our wallowing friend away from us for a while, until he wallowed a little less.

I couldn't stand Miranda.

Few things are more unsettling to my psyche than being unable to justify my feelings or opinions. Most of the time, if I don't like you, I've got a damned good reason for it. That reason might not make sense or be acceptable to everyone else, or anyone else even, but it makes sense to me. John Wesley Hardin once shot a man for snoring too loudly, but it seemed sufficient justification for him to pull that trigger. My dislike for Miranda, on the other hand, had no legitimate purchase. I could never find an explanation for it that justified the extent of my dislike, which bordered on a sort of seething contempt.

She would go to football and basketball games with us and keep asking Why questions. Even after three years of attending multiple games every year, she didn't get field goals, or charging, or why alley-oops were allowed. She didn't understand offsides, or why exactly some players were called "down" while others were allowed to continue running. She didn't understand the coach's box, or the shot clock, or the free throw lane. Beyond the notion that the team who finishes with the highest score wins, she didn't understand much of anything about sports.

And all of her questions were so sweet, so innocent, so naive. Even the 20th time she asked the same question, it was still so sweet, so innocent, so naive. There was something terrifically Dory-esque about her.

But I knew plenty of people who were clueless about sports, and I liked many of them. I knew plenty of innocent and naive people, sweet and genuine people, and I liked many of them. But not Miranda.

Flash forward to 2014 and my 20th Reunion. A very small portion of our best friends and good buddies returned for the event. Maybe two handfuls of us.

I'm friends with Miranda on Facebook. I've enjoyed occasionally seeing updates on her life, pictures of her family. She looks happy, as always. Until a few years ago, she was an educator, because she's the kind of genuinely, stubbornly optimistic soul who goes into teaching almost as a religion, as a belief in self-sacrifice.

Miranda was one of the few in our circle who came back for the reunion, and I was looking forward to reconnecting, because I felt ashamed for not being a better friend, for not really liking her, in college. This reunion was a chance to mend that psychological fence in my head. She'd grown up. I'd sort of matured. We were adults with big people lives now.

At the gathering, we all finally caught up and circled around, catching everyone up on the details you don't see on Facebook.

Her son is, as they say, "on the autism spectrum," so Miranda stopped working to manage him. And raise him, of course, but as anyone who knows the parent of a kid with special needs, their duties and responsibilities make the job of a normal parent seem like being a ticket-taker. Yet that doesn't get her down. She talks about the difficulties and frustrations the same way your favorite first-grade teacher talks in an upbeat way about challenges that would level most of us. She is busy being, in almost any measurable way, an awesome person.

So it pained me that, as she was giving us these updates, as my heart was moved by what a great mom and wife and person she had become, a person very much in line with the young woman she was in college, I was also thinking to myself, "Holy crikey how soon can I get the hell outta this conversation?"

I still couldn't stand Miranda.

What the hell, Billy? How much do you suck as a human being that you cannot bring yourself to like someone as decent, wonderful, and sweet as Miranda?

Don't worry. I get it, in theory. Sometimes people don't mix. Oil and vinegar. Or toothpaste and orange juice. Or Crocs and... well, anything. Sometimes it's not that one thing is bad so much as the combo just doesn't work.

But it just doesn't sit well.

There's a saying in poker: "There's a fish at every table. Look around, and if you don't see one, you're probably it." Well, in relationships, there's generally an a-hole. And if you don't like someone else, and that person is sweet, and genuine, and nice, and if that person's worst crimes are being naive and a little flighty? Then maybe the a-hole is you.

So then I went and ordered a couple of shots just to bring the point home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Epiphany #69: Consumers Can Strike Back!

The opportunity presented in this post will likely annoy more readers than it actually empowers.  That's okay.  In fact, it's kind of the point.

So I've been working a new app on my phone recently.  It's called Buycott.  It's a bar code scanner app, but with a twist.  Before you start scanning anything in your local grocery store, Buycott give you the chance to choose any number of "causes" that are important to you.  You can check as many of those as you like, and then when you do scan a grocery item's bar code, you find out if that item connects with your causes in three ways:

1.  It can tell you if the company that produces the product support that same cause(s) you do.
2.  It can tell you if the company that produces the product violates the cause that you believe in.
3.  It can tell you if there are other causes out there, maybe ones that you aren't all that interested in (yet), that have put this product on the radar.

For example, a friend gave me a box of Mallomars a few weeks ago; they have been sitting in my office.  I just scanned them.  The Nabisco Company, which makes them, is not supporting any of my causes.  To the contrary, a scan of these delicious chocolate-covered, marshmallow cookies tells me that this product is problematic for two of my causes--1) they contain GMOs and 2) they have given $2,000,000 to a campaign to prevent the labeling that would alert us to the existence of GMO's in our food.

GMOs are genetically-modified organisms, or scientists playing with your food.  Are they good?  Are they bad?  Depends on who you talk to.  Corporate giant Monsanto wants us to think that they are "beneficial."  Grocery chains like Whole Foods base much of their existence on the fact that they are a safe haven for non-GMO products.  If there were a battle map drawn in the war for the soul (on non-soul) of our food, GMO vs. non-GMO would be one of the main campaigns.

One simple fact is undeniable: the food giants like Monsanto don't want you to know if there are GMOs in your food.  We are, perhaps, right to be at least suspicious when someone tries to hide something like that.

Other causes that the sweet little cookies bring to my attention on my phone range from calls to boycott companies that advertised in the issue of Rolling Stone magazine that had the Boston Marathon alleged bomber on the cover to calls to boycott Nabisco products because Nabisco was purchased by tobacco giant Philip Morris in 2000 (though the more recent Kraft (who owns Nabisco) split-up is a bit more confusing to follow.  What is certainly as true as the hidden GMOs is the fact that there are many, many, many causes out there.  Perhaps too many to keep up with or to pick battles from.

Is the chocolate in Mallomars produced by child slaves?  Are farmers who produce products used in American foods underpaid?  Should we only buy organic products?  Did Nabisco contribute $2500 to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's campaign?

All are causes I didn't originally subscribe to and don't know if I will.

The typical American response to all of this is to throw up our hands or shrug our shoulders and say everything is bad, or how can I keep up with all of this, or why does it matter, or I'm going to go eat a cheeseburger in a strange act of bravado.  I get that.  We expect it at this point.  Americans don't care, much of the time, about things like this.

But I guess I would argue that the app works.  When buying almond milk the other day, I scanned to brands in the organic/healthy section of the supermarket.  One contains GMOs and one doesn't.  I bought the one that doesn't.

And, as I have been hammering in various ways for the past 7 years, there is a broader reality--that food producers are messing with your food.  Whether it's GMOs or chemicals and additives to stabilize and extend shelf life or antibiotics given to animals that are raised in awful, sickness-inducing conditions, they are messing with your food.  Whether it's using processes that turn fats cancerous or more dangerous to your heart, they are messing with your food.  And, maybe you do have some issues that you care about.  In either case, a little app that makes the exploration of these issues portable and easy might be worth your time.  But, like a fresh, juicy radish, take it with a grain of salt.  It's better that way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Livin' the Dream (Reunion Reflections #1)

Ritchie* owns and runs an Irish pub in one of North Carolina’s bigger cities. It’s an adorable two-story bar downtown. The top floor has a long bar, three or four TVs, and a nice-sized outside deck area with a killer view of the surrounding blocks. The bottom floor, rustic and not-too-roomy, has seven or eight booths, but the bar is right there in the middle of everything. The bottom floor is, as she says, “the no damn TVs allowed section.” Same goes for the bottom floor patio, where you apparently have to talk to people if you’re going to enjoy it. Or check your phone a lot.

This is not "Ritchie." Ritchie is a girl. This is not
me, either. It's just a picture I stoled off the
Internets of an Irish pub that looks a lot like hers.
The upstairs gets packed on Saturdays in the fall and for other big NC sporting events during the year, but the downstairs is the soul of the pub, where secrets are told, lifelines are altered, and alcoholics can stare into the void for hours without the distraction of flashing LED lights, only some variety of classic or not-so-classic rock pumping in at medium volume over the speakers.

I met Ritchie in the fall of my freshman year. She was in my intro poetry-writing class at UNC. She has one of those personalities that have a Jupiter-like gravitational pull. She’s exotic and oozes a sexy brand of confidence. It seems doubtless that, when she befriended/mesmerized me, she merely wanted to adopt a new puppy. Clueless boys are much less expensive than puppies.

Her best friend since elementary school, a behemoth of a man who went on to play for almost 15 years in the NFL, has to lie to his wife when he eats lunch at Ritchie’s bar, because his wife doesn’t trust her. (“If I’d really wanted to sleep with my best friend, don’t you think I coulda done so by now?” Ritchie asked, rhetorically. I nodded.)

Now she’s livin’ the dream. She’s running a thriving bar that will live as long as she wants it to. the bar wasn't her dream, at least not originally.

Mere days after her graduation, she took a suitcase and flew to California in search of something Hollywoody. Acting, screenwriting, whatever. Two years later, having pieced together decent-paying jobs (“basically because no one out there knew how to use a f*#king computer”), she ended up in a modest assistant assistant producer role with “Touched By An Angel.”

Her Hollywood war stories, all told from a lower rung on the totem, are non-stop hilarity and a healthy reminder that whatever we think about stars and their personalities is, at best, a 50-50 crap shoot.

While she was crawling up the entertainment production ladder, Ritchie's brothers were set to start a restaurant, but one of them suffered an aneurism. She came back to be there with her family and help get his restaurant off the ground... but she made it a pub. When it became clear he would survive, she promised to stay a year while he recovered. She picked out every detail. All the decor, the name, the menu, the staff. And then she made it very clear she wasn’t about to just hand over her baby to anyone else.

It is exactly the kind of bar that survives several decades. It’s not chasing a fad, and it’s not seeking the Next New Gimmick that will pull in a young crowd. It just provides a healthy selection of beer, a choice of well-lit and poorly-lit seating options, and some absolutely delicious pub food.

“I decided early on that, if I’m gonna have to eat two or three meals a day here, then the food will have to be good. I’m not gonna subsist on s*#t,” she said.

Ritchie has honed her once-meager potty mouth. Apparently, raising four children while running a bar risks passing along that gene. Two summers ago, her youngest girl walked into the bar and said, “Whassup mah bishes?” because she’d heard one of the bartenders say it a lot. She was five at the time, so now she’s a mythical goddess in pub land.

“I was so proud of the fact that my other three kids were good about it, didn’t cuss like me. And now my youngest one’s making up for all of ‘em.”

Running a bar is way cooler as a fantasy. She only allows herself to drink one night every year at her bar: St. Patty’s Day. The other 364 days are straight sober. “I learned early on that if you allow yourself to drink at your own bar, then it’s a decision you have to make every single day. And you have too many decisions to make every day to let that one take up your time.”

She’s as much of a therapist as a manager, with a staff full of the kinds of back stories that could form a whole new Lifetime-esque cable channel.

In the early years, as her husband worked as an officer, her kids would play up in the office area and sleep in dog beds she bought for them. She would either crash on a couch (that's still up there, and that had a server sleeping on it when she toured me) for the night or carry them down, one at a time, to her car well after midnight to tuck them in at home.

What I liked about her, from those early days until I saw her again for the first time in over 20 years, was how damned determined she was to squeeze out some happiness, for herself, for others, and especially for those who seemed to need some, sometimes desperately so. 

Few people I know are forces of nature quite like her, people who seem to bend surroundings to her will by stubbornly -- maybe even angrily -- refusing to stop smiling. Cheerful and determined, with some strange invisible chip on her shoulder. Sounds like the perfect woman to run a kickass Irish pub.

* -- (That’s not really her name.)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Epiphany #68: A Long Day Is A Good Day

People like to say, "What a long day" or "Man, it's been a long week."  I've had some long days. I've had some work days that started before 8AM and were still going after 10PM or midnight or later.  My friends who work in dormitories know much longer days much more regularly.  So, yes, there are days with long, long, long working hours.

But here is the new paradigm: a long day is the best day.

How can that be?  None of us wants to work ourselves into the ground, least of all me.  None of us wants to have that grueling day that will not end because of one obligation after another.

But imagine a different kind of long day.  Imagine a day, maybe a Sunday like yesterday or last week, where you wake up a bit earlier than you need to in order to drive your wife to church, which gets you to meet your father earlier than you normally do, and which then leaves you with absolute freedom early in the morning.

Imagine a day where you have been to the grocery, returned home, eaten lunch, then driven downtown to pick up your wife to come back home, all by about a little after noon.  This leaves an early afternoon to do a bunch of grading and to walk outside where the lawnmower waits and to "mulch" all of the fallen leaves in your yard and still by about 3 o'clock, to call upstairs to your napping wife and to say, "let's go out on the town."

Of course, that means little more than a bit of shopping out at the mall, but even when that is finished, and you are driving away from the mall, that leaves you time to say, "Hey, let's go to Bar Louie and get an app and a beer and watch a little football."

And even when that is over, you still get home early in the evening, early enough to have 5 or 6 hours left to do whatever you want to do.  The last hour of NFL Red Zone.  An hour of guitar practice.  Some time in front of the stove preparing meals for the week ahead.  A talk with a child about something that is going on.  Maybe a chance to chip away at a book or a Netflix show or a blog post like this.  A load of laundry and a favorite CD.

On an especially wonderful version of this kind of day, you get into bed by about 10 o'clock, your body tired out, but your mind still active, and you may lie side by side knowing that, maybe for two hours, anything could happen in no particular order, separately or together, all options on the table, all options pleasantly satisfactory.  Because, for once, you don't feel time pushing you.  Not for many minutes.

There are days out there, waiting for us.  They are days wide open enough that they give us the time to do everything that we have to do and then time still to do everything that we want to.  There is time if we look for it.

Maybe that day is not an amazing day, but it is the kind of long day that I am talking about.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Girl Who Cried Wolf, Part II

Recap of Part I:
  • Wolf-whistlers suck, but they’re not criminals.
  • The “Affirmative consent” movement in colleges is complicated and compelling.
  • It is a reasonable overreaction by men to feel the affirmative consent movement puts them in a delicate situation. It is also reasonable for students to feel that an honor code puts them in a delicate situation, but most students are proud to have attended schools with honor codes.
KEY PARAGRAPH: It’s amazing what happens when you research these issues. Answers stop being so binary, so easy or obvious. Details stop being so clear-cut. What I crave, being an extrovert, is a chance to talk through these matters, to discuss and debate, preferably with those who can bring a different perspective to the matter, who can offer me insights I cannot achieve on my own. I cannot learn much in an echo chamber.
Unfortunately, in our current culture, few people are impassioned enough to be informed without becoming almost zealot-like. We seem incapable of caring about something and, simultaneously, tolerating someone who doesn’t agree with us. Not if the issue Really Matters To Us.

Unfortunately, far too many feminists are, in attitude and approach, similar to guns rights extremists in the NRA.

Only a guns rights zealot would tell me that I deserve to get killed, that my family deserves to get killed, by an intruder because I don’t own a firearm. “Your deaths will be on your own hands,” he said calmly, politely, when we discussed the issue, “because you could have chosen to arm yourself.” (This conversation really happened.)

Only feminist extremists would tell a male walking into a speaking engagement, and the police officer protecting his right to do so, that the mere act of showing up makes them likely to rape “your sisters and the women in your life.” As if an army of rapists were being educated on how to better rape and violate women, stormtrooper-like, in a single campus speaker event. (Watch the video in the link. It's quite disturbing.)

In matters of guns and sexual assault, there is no middle. There is no compromising. There is no discussing. You agree with a zealot, or you are A Terrible (or Stupid) Person. Period.

This cultural phenomenon goes well beyond two issues. Ask George Will or Bill Maher, who have been protested as campus speakers because they say offensive or disagreeable things. Ironically, Maher was invited to honor the anniversary of Free Speech Day.

Check out #GamerGate, where any penis-wielding video gamer is made to feel they should bear the responsibility for the trolls and jerkwads in their midst. Can you imagine blaming all black men for their incarcerated minority*? It makes me angry, and I don’t even play video games that have more than two buttons. (* - if you said, "We do, and it's called Stop & Frisk," I say to you touche!) 

On the other hand, when I read about Felicia Day expressing an opinion and quickly getting drowned in hate, I want someone’s scrotum to burn. Key word: "someone's," not "all f*#king gamer dudes'." When it feels like someone is pointing the finger at me simply because I have a dick and like Donkey Kong, it's very difficult to want to Red Rover over to their side of the debate.

For anyone who values discussion, or debate, or learning, or the right to adjust or correct an opinion or belief, for anyone who values carefully and mindfully working through one’s own issues of (possible) ignorance, good luck working through issues on gun rights or women’s rights or the dangers of extreme religion of any genre in this horrifying time. To express uncertainty, much less disagreement, is to be A Bad Person, to be a “rape apologist” or a “hater of freedom” or a “racist.”

A country that cannot debate, that cannot disagree, is an endangered country. Or, if you prefer Noam Chomsky’s version: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum....”

The Female Rights Revolution -- or whatever we should call what is happening right now -- could be the single-most important issue in American culture in 2014. More important than Obamacare. More important than Ebola. More important than the iPhone 6. It’s a very, very big deal, and it’s going to change the way my children’s children deal with one another interpersonally, romantically, sexually. Unless it slips into the world of Google+, failing to build up a following but not because it lacked promise, not because it didn't deserve to be that important.

Meanwhile, as we discuss and lament "street harassment," an amendment passed in Tennessee that will allow yet one more Republican-dominated state government to restrict, if not outright ban, abortion rights. We're gagging at gnats while the camels run down our throats.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Girl Who Cried Wolf, Part I

A woman walks the streets of New York City. She is wolf-whistled and catcalled in uninvited ways by men whose paths she crossed over and over and over again. The video was a successful marketing attempt by a group seeking to combat “street harassment.” It went viral, and quickly.

Men kinda suck, was my inevitable and initial reaction. Why do we do this crap? Why do we, as a species, suck? What personal fulfillment does this kind of behavior give a man?

Easily the most disturbing part of the video is when one guy sallies up alongside the woman and walks with her for five minutes. Uninvited. Unwanted. With absolutely no chance of Romeoing his way into a relationship of any kind or length. But walking with her anyway. What kind of crime is it, exactly? I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. The eyeball test says what he’s doing is wrong, and that she shouldn’t have to tolerate it.

Upon repeated viewings, however, it gets more difficult to take offense at the flippant, shouted grunts and compliments-called-harassment by random dudes up and down the street. Are these comments uninvited, unwanted, offensive? Perhaps. Then again, so are the comments people make to one another from inside their cars. And so are the things we say to referees or players on an opposing team. If we criminalize these “assaulting” behaviors, the Cameron Crazies will end up on death row, right? Perhaps I should continue reading, discussing, considering...

A few decades from now, we’ll realize 2014 was a critical moment in the cultural struggle for feminism and women’s rights. I worry we’ll realize that too many feminists spent too much time fighting the wrong fights for the wrong reasons, alienated too many men by making all of them feel culpable for the actions of the few, and set many of their causes back in the process.

#YesMeansYes, #GamerGate, #YesAllWomen, Street Harassment. These are just a handful of the salient 2014 topics around issues of women, women’s rights, and our (changing… or unchanging) notions of equality and equal rights.

To follow these kinds of issues in the media and not snap to judgment is practically impossible. Too many moronic sideline commentators, too many journalists and opinionators paid to react, to judge as quickly and extremely as possible, before expending even 20 of their brain cells genuinely contemplating the matter at hand. Why actually learn about an issue when farting out a reactionary opinion is so simple?

It’s amazing what happens when you research these issues. Answers stop being so binary, so easy or obvious. Details stop being so clear-cut. What I crave, being an extrovert, is a chance to talk through these matters, to discuss and debate, preferably with those who can bring a different perspective to the matter, who can offer me insights I cannot achieve on my own. I cannot learn much in an echo chamber.

Take, for example, the #YesMeansYes slash Affirmative Consent movement in colleges. The general idea is that advancing sexually without clear and explicit consent from your partner can be judged as sexual assault by the educational institution. Said institution can suspend or expel you for doing so.

The immediate reaction to this rule, for even many (if not most) reasonable and sensitive males, is apoplexy. It seems to be counter to our entire notion of a healthy justice system. Men* can be found guilty with minimal chance of defending themselves, of being presumed innocent. (* - c’mon. This is gonna mostly be about men.)

And you read the initial Ezra Klein piece about it where he damns the idea with faint praise. And you read as the Internets gang tackles Klein and labels him 80 different kinds of idiot.

And you read the open letter from Harvard Law professors decrying and denouncing such an unjust law.

I instinctively feel aggravated. I imagine scenarios where I could have, as a naive 19-year-old, found myself being accused of awful things despite being one of the most non-aggressive, non-assertive lusty heterosexual males to have ever attended college. I wouldn't even dance in direct contact with a girl on the most crowded of dance floors unless she practically wrote the invitation on her forehead, but that doesn't keep a male from imagining all of the land mines, all of the nightmarish pitfalls of being wrongfully accused.

But then I read Ezra Klein’s response to all his detractors. Students get kicked out of college all the time without a jury trial, without any real judge rendering any real legal judgment. They’re called cheaters, usually, or they’re breaking some other aspect of a school’s honor code.

And that’s been happening in schools for a long time. And no one has been angry about it. In fact, most people are proud, mega-proud, for having graduated from an institution with a strict and tightly-enforced honor code that kicks possibly-innocent people out on occasion.

And I realize that my initial anger is -- and this is almost always true -- misguided. So I try to readjust my mindset and approach to the subject and seek out more information. Because that's what lifelong learners should do.

To Be Continued...