Putsch up or Shut up

In light of yesterday’s putsch. I generally feel perfectly comfortable ignoring Tablet, but a friend reminded me of this: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/trump-and-the-joys-of-hatred

That’s a good analysis (i.e., I agree with it, which makes it “good”).

There is something very deep going on, brainwise, with people so invested in a public personality. Similar to Elvis, the Beatles, Hitler, anyone else who could command an adoring crowd. What is happening in the audience member’s brain? They’re focused intently on the person, and something something mirror neurons, and they start to imitate them and internalize them. Protect them as an element of their own identity; when people feel their identity attacked, they feel the same as if their body were being threatened by wild animals. With rock/pop stars, young women are the most vulnerable (they group-bond very readily), and this might be related to mass hysteria phenomena, as in Salem et alibi (just learned that from a crossword — it means “and other places”! Sweeeet…).

I’ve always believed that all of us have an opera in our headwe’re the hero, of course, and there are villains and all the other stock characters of opera. And the emotions are ridiculously heightened. Of course, it might be an action movie or a comic book—they’re all closely related. High emotions, high stakes, unmistakable heroes and villains.

How do we distinguish between the very compelling detailed, emotional story being told in the opera in our heads from the real world? At one extreme, there are true paranoid or schizophrenic delusions (I’m sure I’m using the terms wrong… sorry) and at the other end… I don’t know where the other end is, though I bet a lot of people (everyone?) thinks that’s where they’re at—everyone believes they are perfectly rational and that they can distinguish reality from illusion instantly and intuitively. I think at our absolute best and most rational (for whatever value of that word) we float in and out of our delusions, and maybe for some the delusions are like John Nash’s voices in his head that he learned to identify as hallucinations, couldn’t get rid of, but learned to ignore. To some degree we can probably switch back and forth, when we’re engaged in an activity that doesn’t bear much emotional freight. But as soon as our identity/emotion hair-trigger is touched, all bets are off. When you hear about subconscious or implicit bias, that’s what is happening. The continual noise in our head includes noises from the actual world and noises generated inside. In the rough and tumble of everyday existence, we’re lousy at distinguishing them. One tool for training that skill is meditation—mindfulness training. I’ve let it slide, I should get back to it.

Our perception is always mediated by what’s actually out there and our brain’s internal sound and light show. And what’s out there is cobbled together from the various bits and pieces retrieved by our senses to give us the comforting illusion of continuity and uniformity. Dreams are a great example of when the information from the world is very muted and attenuated and the noise inside is more vivid in comparison. During the day, it flips around. But it’s never, I think, all one or all the other.

Religion interacts with this system. Hence the conundrum of whose voice that is in your head: your own everyday voice, memory of important voices, or a supernatural entity? The notion that we can hear the voice in our head and interpret it as our own thoughts is sometimes considered a recent (in the history of humanity) innovation. Before that, thoughts were always someone’s voice.

Here’s a great article on how we fool ourselves into thinking we’re conscious (for our naive definition of consciousness, as a unitary mind making conscious decisions based on real-world observations, and then acting on those conscious decisions): https://fs.blog/2017/02/michael-gazzaniga-the-interpreter/

That pesky left-brain interpreter!

The Crown – Liberalism and Conservatism Defined

I don’t think I’ve seen a better short definition of Liberalism and Conservatism than in the episode of The Crown, Fagan (Season 4, Episode 5). This is the one where this everyguy, Michael Fagan, sneaks into Buckingham Palace not once but twice, and has a short audience with the Queen before he is arrested.

I finally found a site that offers the closed captioning text, which is as close to the actual script as I’ll get. Here are the relevant passages (bolding is mine):

Queen and Fagan

Fagan: I’ve tried everything else. Writing letters, speaking to my MP. Fat lot of good any of that did. Mirage of democracy. So I’ve come to you, the head of state. You’re my last resort. Someone who can actually do something.

Queen: What is it you’d like me to do?

Fagan: Save us all from her.

Queen:  Who?

Fagan: Thatcher. She’s destroying the country. We’ve got more than three million unemployed. More than at any time since the Great Depression. Doesn’t that bother you?

Queen: Yes, it bothers me greatly. But there’s nothing I can do about it. When you’ve been in my position as long as I have, you see how quickly and how often a nation’s fortunes can change. Joblessness, recession, crises, war. All these things have a way of correcting themselves. Countries bounce back. People do. Because they simply have to.

Fagan: That’s what I thought. That I’d bounce back. And then I didn’t. First the work dried up, then my confidence dried up. Then… the love in my wife’s eyes dried up. And then you begin to wonder, you know, where’s it gone? Not just your confidence or your happiness, but your… They say that I have mental health problems now. I don’t. I’m just poor.

Queen: The state can help with all of this.

Fagan: What state? The state has gone. She’s dismantled it, along with the other things we thought we could depend on growing up. A sense of community, a sense of, you know, obligation to one another. A sense of kindness. It’s all disappearing.

Queen: I think you’re exaggerating. People still show kindness to one another, and they still pay their taxes to the state.

Fagan: And she spends that money on an unnecessary war and declares the feel-good factor is back again. In the meantime, all the things that really make us feel good, the right to work, the right to be ill… the right to be old, the right to be frail, be human, mmm, gone. You may think you’re off the hook, but she’s got her eye on your job, too. You’ll be out of work soon.

Queen: Let me assure you, Mrs. Thatcher is an all-too-committed monarchist.

Fagan:  She has an appetite for power which is presidential, and in this country, a president and a head of state cannot coexist. Mark my words, she’s put us out of work. She’s quietly putting you out of work.

Queen and Thatcher

Thatcher:  On behalf of the government and the Metropolitan Police, I am so sorry. It is a national embarrassment that the Queen of the United Kingdom should be subjected to troublemakers and malcontents who feel at liberty to resort to violence.

Queen: Oh, but he wasn’t violent. In fact, the only person Mr. Fagan hurt in the course of his break-in was himself. And while he may be a troubled soul, I don’t think he’s entirely to blame for his troubles, being a victim of unemployment, which is now more than twice what it was when you came into office just three years ago.

Thatcher: If unemployment is temporarily high, ma’am, then it is a necessary side effect of the medicine we are administering to the British economy.

Queen: Shouldn’t we be careful that this medicine, like some dreadful chemotherapy, doesn’t kill the very patient it is intended to heal? If people like Mr. Fagan are struggling, do we not have a collective duty to help them? What of our moral economy?

Thatcher: If we are to turn this country around, we really must abandon outdated and misguided notions of collective duty. There are individual men and women, and there are families. Self-interested people who are trying to better themselves. That is the engine that fires a nation. My father didn’t have the state to rely on should his business fail. It was the risk of ruin and his duty to his family that drove him to succeed.

Queen: Perhaps not everyone is as remarkable as your father.

Thatcher:  Oh, you see, that is where you and I differ. I say they have it within them to be.

Queen: Even someone like Mr. Fagan?

Thatcher: Mr. Fagan is another matter. Two different doctors have reached the conclusion he is suffering from a schizophrenic illness. If he is spared criminal prosecution on account of his condition, then a nice, secure mental hospital will ensure he will not be a danger any longer. Now, if you will excuse me, I really must go.

I don’t even know

Just read an article about how in San Francisco nobody says hi in the street. Interesting.

I’m a native New Yorker, so I am very much part of the culture where you don’t greet strangers for no reason in passing on the street. Now I live in Los Angeles where you rarely pass people on the street, so it doesn’t come up. But I grew up in an apartment building where you certainly did say hello and converse briefly with neighbors, and I do greet my neighbors where I live now, in a neighborhood which seems very suburban to me (though my kids bridle at that description; I tell them, if it’s single family homes with lawns in front, it’s a suburb! Reasonable people can disagree).

I have spent time in, and love, San Francisco. Maybe real estate will drop and rents will become more affordable and interesting people for whom making money is not driving impulse of their life will move in again. Also New York, which is a shell of its former self, thanks to all the rich people and their unholy spawn.

What made San Francisco and New York so interesting in the 60s and 70s were the people who were in the counterculture. Not much money, but lots of creative vision. They could afford the rents, and they wanted to make music, do theater, paint, write, and create something. They were so exciting and fun to be around that they boosted the value of their towns until they were priced out and along with them, the small businesses that also could only exist because of reasonable rents. I remember when the last wrought iron company in SoHo closed down because their building was so valuable they couldn’t afford to stay in business. That must have been an interesting family discussion.

Part of this is, of course, boring things like interest rates. Without a reasonable return on T-notes, everything else in the world became an object of speculation. Computers accelerated this trend, so that hedge funds can invest in, say, 100,000 rental units. Used to be the overhead of managing those would make mass speculation a losing proposition. But now with software tools, it’s a pretty good investment.

And there’s no counterculture now. Thanks to tech, we are atomised and suffer anomie. But that trend predates tech — small towns have seen neighbor turn against neighbor in favor of big box stores and megachurches before anyone had a smartphone. My neighbor Larry’s hardware store? I can get a Chinese hammer for half the price at the Walmart! No wonder the small-town right wing is so emotionally messed up, heavily armed and on the constant verge of tears with anger and resentment. They stopped buying their local paper (again, turning against their neighbor to save a nickel*) and instead are feeding off hypercharged vicious rumors thanks to social media. The only newspapers left are national chains. Where before, some bright kid could get a job in local media, bringing much needed variety into the ranks of journalism and media, now those local jobs are just the fading memory of a dream, and only big city papers and chains remain, and they hire who they’re used to hire.

The culture of individuality has crushed the skull of the small town, leaving what amounts to an anthill after the passage of a mean child kicks it over. Eating each other and attacking anything in sight.

I don’t know where this goes, and maybe it doesn’t matter whether I know or not. Certainly COVID is increasing the sense of isolation. We are, after all, beasts evolved to live in extended clans of about 100, and if we’re forced to live only in groups of five, the results can’t be good.

* You could argue that this behavior is driven by downward pressure on wages. Also, that reluctance to fight that downward pressure is due to racial solidarity with bosses in the face of perceived threats by other ethnic racial groups. Pathetic forelock-tugging, I call it. But yes, I’m aware of these arguments. I suspect there’s a lot to them.

Anxiety driven ideation

Anxiety driven follow up.

It just takes corruption in five states; FL, NC, and GA are super easy. Then there would be lawsuits which the Supreme Court would shut down to Protect a Divided Nation, much like Scalia did in 2000. We just can’t keep counting! Yes, that decision was explicitly said not to be a precedent, but, hey! Now it could be! Why not! And they’ve already shown their hand with Wisconsin. Counting votes? We can’t just “count” “votes”! Who even knows what “count” and “votes” even mean! Originalists can cherry pick whatever 18th cent text they want to write a decision they don’t even need, frankly, except for form’s sake. What’s anyone going to do? Disapprove?

And if one conservative justice clutches their pearls, they have enough anyway. Gorsuch and Roberts would have to team up with the liberals, which they’re not likely to do. Play ball, your kids get jobs. Look at Scalia’s son.


I think a lot about patriotism. In the way a blind person might muse about colors or an autistic person might wonder about facial expressions.

I find anthems stirring and flags have an effect on me. So do cathedrals and organ music, but they don’t make me believe in a god. What I conclude from that is that there are feelings that can be induced by certain visual and aural stimuli. There, that’s the lesson, the whole lesson.

I remember an old acting teacher of mine, John Stix. He said that dialog, the words we speak, are the ruffle on the edge of the dancer’s skirt. A minor side effect of the main action. So if someone does something heroic or incredibly generous, or something horrible and murderous and selfish, the fact that they utter religious or patriotic words as they do it is of little interest—the action is the thing. If you see a nature show with seals on the beach, all cavorting and barking and squealing, you can tell which are courting or competing or fighting — you don’t need to understand what the barking means. Same with us. Religion and patriotism are the noises we make as we follow our subconscious urges and do what we wanted to do anyway. We just make noises as we do things—big deal.

Likewise, I don’t think any country has a monopoly on … well, anything. I’m safe and can prosper in some countries at some times, but not at other times. And certain ethno/religious/national groups may be more comfortable in some places at some times than in others. The trick is not being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is a museum in Paris, the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which is some dead rich guy’s house; a Jewish banker, as it happens. He had great taste and was a collector of nice things. He had been a banker in Turkey. Things got dicey there for all the reasons things can get dicey for rich Jews (some gentile wanting their money is the usual thing), and he left. If I remember, he basically bought himself and his family Italian passports, and then French. They settled in this grand mansion in 1911. His children ended up rounded up by the Vichy regime. I think they died in the camps.

We thought we were going to see nice furniture and china, and ended up weeping. Now, that’s a museum. Highly recommended.

So if I moved to France or Germany, I would certainly worry about the Front National or Alternativ für Deutschland. Actually, more the latter than the former. The FN has learned the Republican trick of making nice with Jews as partners against a) atheist Communists and b) insufficiently atheist Muslims to inoculate themselves against claims of religious intolerance (though they haven’t learned the next trick of referring to “Judeo-Christian” values; I guess laïcité makes that awkward). AfD seems to be keeping its anti-semitic powder dry for now, but they tolerate it in their followers, much like the Republicans do.

As I muse about patriotism, I think about the Good German–the unimpeachably ‘Aryan’ person who had no particular beef with Jews (some of their best friends…), but was in no personal danger (if a guy, might have been drafted… let’s say he’s too old or has a club foot). What should they do? Keep their head down and wait for better times as they think about Eternal German Values and how they’ve been distorted This One Time? Should they emigrate? Should they join the Resistance and sabotage the war effort at tremendous personal risk? We might have mild contempt for the first, understand the second, and admire the third. What would you do? I like to think I’d be the cunning resistance fighter, but I’d probably be the coward who does the easy thing. If family history gave me a second passport, I certainly might leave, even if I weren’t in personal danger.

These are tough questions. I can send money to various movements, BLM and such. I might even protest were it not for Covid and my and my wife’s age and vulnerability.

Or I could leave, if it were not for family and the weight of property.

Consider the odds

Yes, there are many imponderables. People kept away at the polls at the last minute, mail-in ballots diverted, maybe a Black person shot by police in Philadelphia to provoke unrest and drive more iffy Republicans to the polls to protect Their Way of Life™, which, apparently, requires streets paved with dead Black bodies.

Oh, wait. That last thing just happened. I can check that box. The bloody cherry on top.

I’m reading a book called The Drunkard’s Walk about probability and statistics, which I find soothing. The writer is Leonard Mlodinow, who co-wrote A Brief History of Time. So he’s, you know, Good. If you ever thought you should know more about prob and stat, but thought it would be too boring to bear, this is the book. He’s a sparkling writer. And I find having a dispassionate take on the odds can have a calming effect. Combine that with the 538 Politics Podcast, where Nate Silver talks in his very slightly Aspergerish way about odds, what they tell us and what they don’t.

Of all the things that scare me, such as heavily armed gangs of excited goyim, I think I was most frightened by the redefinition of “elite” to mean people with education, rather than people with money and influence. So an adjunct professor of history who makes $40k is elite, while the owner of a chain of exterminators who makes $500k and plays golf with your congressman is not. That takes us one more step toward Pol Pot and putting people with eyeglasses into work camps.

Oh well. Living in earthquake country, it’s always been a good idea to have a Go Box, with important documents in it. Of course, when they give a Proud Boys lieutenant my house and paintings, I don’t think showing my deed to the house to the authorities will have any effect. Deepfake!

Rootless Cosmopolitans

When I was working in Lyon, the team would have lunch together and talk politics and religion. One dude was complaining about immigrants or hijabs or something, and I said something like, Did you enjoy your empire? This is the flip side. You liked the parades and the military dudes with medals and tanks? Congratulations, they’ve brought you les banlieues. Getting rich off of Africa means that Africans are going to be your neighbors.

French cultural note — that was perfectly OK office lunchtime banter.

I feel the same way about the US and Central America. Those people are fleeing chaos we created. Not that chaos doesn’t happen for many other reasons, Zinn and Chomsky notwithstanding, but this particular chaos, in Guatemala and Honduras for instance, we own that. We should take their refugees, no questions asked, until the end of time.

I suspect that it’s hard to have been an empire, even if the empire was in the year 900. Faded memories of greatness are a burden we are not intended to carry. We just don’t do it well… it makes us mean and stupid. I think France carries it off a little better than many, and I give La Revolution credit for that—an awareness that the villain is the rich guy and the cleric. That probably-not-Diderot quote is salutary: La Révolution n’est pas fini jusqu’à ce que le dernier roi est étouffé avec les boyaux du dernier prêtre. Or something like that. And if Jews have any advantage in their culture, it’s that, if they had an Empire, it was thousands of years ago under David. But still, Jews all over the world read about that every day. And now they have control of a nation again.

My family is the ultimate “blood and soil” bugaboo; we are all proud rootless cosmopolitans. I don’t think any of us ever came to America for “liberty”. My great grandfather came to San Francisco for the gold rush, my grandparents went to Hollywood for showbiz, my father went to New York for publishing. My mother, too, came to New York, specifically. Not Sioux City, where, presumably, there’s just as much Liberty™ as NY. But she was fleeing the small town for the big city, not Canada for the US.

And if my grandparents had given up on Hollywood dreams, they could have stayed in London instead of getting on that next boat. Or they could have gone to South Africa where, as Jews, they would have been considered conditionally quasi-White and had plenty of Liberty (and cheap domestic help). Or Palestine where they would have had Liberty, but the kaffee mit schlag would have sucked. But Hollywood was where the action was.

The Shrinking Majority in a Democracy

If you are in a world of Kings and Monarchies, you might take it for granted that Royalty is in place for (perhaps) Divine reasons. God made it so, and so it must be. And if Royalty misbehaves, that’s God’s will and we should be clever in not being noticed by them, lest we incur their displeasure.

If you live in a colony founded by Royal Decree, and you are far away from the displeasure of the dreaded Royals, you might start to Think Differently. It seems arbitrary and capricious that people, of highly variable talents and character but who are of a particular bloodline of someone who won a war a long time ago, get to be rulers Just Because.

You might, if you were a somewhat Deep Thinker, wonder about what gives a Government the Right to Govern. And you might conclude that it is the Consent of the Governed.

Okay. And that gets us to the Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions.

Now, say you live in a World of Democracies. You are a member of an Ethnic or Cultural Group and it seems to you as if the Interests of your Ethnic or Cultural Group keep being ignored or denigrated by the Democratically elected Government. If you are in the Minority, you try to get everyone in your Group to vote. If that is not sufficient, you try to persuade members of other Ethno-Cultural Groups to vote with you. Perhaps you need to increase suffrage, perhaps you need to persuade disenchanted members of your Group to have Hope and to behave Optimistically. Perhaps you need to tell your Story in such a way that other Groups see themselves in your Story.

So far so good.

Let’s say you are in the Majority while this is happening. Normally, things Go your Way because you’re in the Majority. You have the Power to dictate How Things Go. Any Minorities that want to Live a Good Life can vote with you. You get to decide which Minorities are OK and which are Not-OK.

But a new consensus is forming and your numbers are shrinking and suddenly Democracy seems to bring other people’s and groups’ interests to the fore.

What is the Former Majority to think about Democracy now? Suddenly it doesn’t look so obviously Good.

In many countries, Syria and Russia, for instance, minorities govern. There are sham Elections, because Elections Are Good, but those who support the interest of the Minorities Always Win. Right-thinking people scorn those systems. The Sacred Vote! One Man One Vote!

As someone clever said about the Arab World: One Man, One Vote, this one time.

In America, far-Right White Supremacists have always been deeply suspicious of our Sacred Constitution. After all, it never mentions White people. It does have the 3/5ths business, so, OK, but it does not guarantee that White Men shall always be In Charge.

Looked at that way, from the Point of View of disenchanted White Men, Democracy and universal suffrage could be seen as an insult, just a sneaky way to take their (God-Given) privilege away and give it to the Less-Deserving.

Yes, it all sounds depressingly familiar.

If you are a member of an Ethno-Cultural Group that enjoyed Dominance in a Democracy, but your numbers are dwindling, it is conceivable that Democracy might seem to have Worn out its Welcome. Yes, it was a wonderful, and Philosophically Satisfying, way to have power in the land, but now there must be Other Ways. So maybe deny others the vote, make it harder to vote, have Judges who declare that maybe “voting” is not something absolutely everyone needs to do. Get Intellectuals to Opine on the topic.

After all, nobody is being oppressed by a King, that’s a long-ago battle. Now we are just grasping at power.

And that’s how it ends.

How not to think

I have an old friend who is suffering from anxiety. I mean, we all are (I know I am), but he has additional issues having to do with health. I suggested meditation, and he said he had tried, but he couldn’t stop thinking! He couldn’t get a “clear mind!”

I told him that he was being over-ambitious. Start by just sitting still for five minutes. After succeeding at that for a few days, add listening to breath and ambient noise. Then add feeling your body…

After doing this for a while, add noticing your thoughts. Now, this is hard. You’re thinking your thoughts, how do you notice a thought that you’re thinking?

Here’s my very amateurish, totally not a yogi approach. I believe our mind/brain has dozens if not hundreds of somewhat independent agents, each of whom is making their own noise. Our left-brain interpreter (itself an agent) is the storyteller of our brain. We listen to it more than other agents because it’s louder and its stories are more complete and compelling. But we can hear, if we listen, more of our agents.

You know that trick, at a party, of listening to the hubbub of the party, then zeroing in on a single voice? Do it the other way. Soften your focus, zoom out to sense the field of noise, not any one piece of it.

Do this with your thoughts. They’re all making noise, listen to the crowd. This makes any one thought or story seem less engrossing.

Try this with your vision, too. Allow the entire field of color and shadow and light to be present, while not sharpening your focus on any one detail. When you (inevitably) do focus, zoom out again.

Anxiety shopping

I’ve been resisting anxiety shopping. I could easily waste hundreds of dollars if I’m not careful. Here’s what I’ve been eyeing:

The reMarkable tablet. Such a sweet piece of technology! Super thin, it can be used for PDF reading, note taking and drawing. You can also use it as an ePub reader, but I’m told it’s not good for that, though they don’t give details about what it’s not good at. Oh, and it’s $400, and that’s its “introductory” pricing, where they toss in a special stylus and cover, which would be an additional $137. $400 is a lot of money, and I have no pressing need for it. I just admire the tech and it seem quite beautiful.

I recently (6 mos ago?) replaced my HP 17-inch Pavilion laptop. I had kept it going for years by replacing and upgrading parts. I got pretty good at that. The fans of that machine tend to fail after a couple of years (okay, maybe you need to puff air through the vents more regularly than I did…). I had replaced the fan a while ago, and did it again, but I must have tugged on the wire to the monitor because it suddenly went all green. So I bit the bullet and bought a ZBook G6 17, which is a fantastic computer. It weighs a lot, so it’s barely a laptop — they call it a “mobile workstation”. The stand I’m using is from the old Pavilion, the HP USB Media Dock. It has an integrated (removable) USB3 docking station that plugs into the base of the stand, which is also an Altec Lansing speaker. Much better and louder than the quite good B&O speakers built into the ZBook. Then I have an external old Samsung monitor that I keep on a heavy articulated arm stand clamped to my desk. I found the HP Display and Notebook Stand II (e8g00aa) made by Ergotron, and it’s verrry nice; I love Ergotron! Elegant way to hold the computer and an extra monitor while taking up much less desk space than I use now. It accommodates various HP docking stations, none of which, sadly, I can use with my machine, AFAIK. The port replicator I could use with my machine costs another $300 (the Thunderbolt 230W Dock G2 with the confusingly-named “combo cable” which is a power cord and USB-C cable glommed together; and I can’t even power my mobile workstation via the dock, so I would have a cluster of big, heavy, HP power bricks). Also it doesn’t have a speaker. But the stand is a very sweet design, and can be bought for $190. But I didn’t NEEEED it. Not really. But then I listened to the sound on my laptop stand, and the speakers weren’t working! Finally, an excuse! So I bought the e8g00aa. Then I thought, wait: have I updated the drivers of my DisplayLink docking station? So I did that, and … the speakers work just fine.

I canceled my order. *sigh*

I’ll be taking a Statistics class at UCLA Extension as a prerequisite for an MLIS program which I would like to start in a year. The course suggested a scientific or graphing calculator. It’s always nagged at me that I should never have thrown out the old HP-25 I had in college and used until the battery pack up and died. So I explored vintage HP programmable calculators. Now I want to buy an HP-41CX with the Stats pack. Like this one, on eBay. But, my god, $310? Without the manuals? Seems like a lot for something I don’t really need. I can do everything I need on Excel ON MY PHONE. But the vintage HP calculators are super sweet… And my Pixel 3? Eh, I have no emotional connection with it. This kind of thing is most fun when you get it at a thrift shop for $20 and spend $290 on fixing it up, right? Yikes. So I haven’t bought one … yet. But I have my eyes open.

I just recently spent $380 on refurbishment and repair of an old German Erika Naumann typewriter sent to me by a relative. It was such a sweet gesture, that I really wanted to do the repair as a gesture of gratitude and to honor the dead relative who owned it. And, if we’re counting, it’s a valuable typewriter.

More egregiously, I spent $1200 (!!) on a Comma 2 for my Prius Prime, to add more driver assistance features. It’s amazing, really. Works great. Beeps too much. It beeps when I engage cruise control and when I disengage it. It also puts a green outline on the screen. Too much feedback and the beeps annoy and frighten passengers.

My daughter says we should buy pretty much anything we want—I still have a job, Ellen is still working, what the hell! But I try to be careful… Not only on spending but on accumulation. I have two big bags of things I want to sell on eBay. Maybe when I’ve sold them I can use the proceeds to get that calculator…