Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Haggling is not Quakerly

At, you can hear Planet Money's Episode 633 "The Birth and Death of the Price Tag" from June 17, 2015.  It is about how haggling used to be universal, around 1870, we started having fixed prices, but now we are moving back toward more haggling.  At 3:30, they mention that in the time of haggling, one group of people did not haggle: Quakers thought it was morally wrong to charge different prices to different people. 

I don't recall being taught that haggling was wrong for Quakers.  In fact, for me, the epitome of Quakerliness was my great grandfather, and he haggled when he visited the Middle East.  I think he saw it as a way of connecting with people, to tell each other the story of what the object being purchased means to you.

But the Quaker principles ingrained in me cause me to favor fixed prices, to feel there is something wrong with haggling, sales, coupons, and gambling.  So it was affirming to hear in this stories that I'm not the only person who feels that haggling is unQuakerly.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A beautiful evening

I took the day off work to do chores, including dealing with frustrating phone calls.  It was hot and humid.  I was tired.   I was so tired that I felt shaky about moving.  But I persevered.  I remembered feeling this way other times, and coming out okay.  I went to the laundromat and did laundry.  I hung up the laundry on the balcony.  After the laundry was hung, I sat on the balcony.  Suddenly, the day was transformed into a beautiful evening.  The air, formerly hot and humid, was cool and clear, a perfect temperature.  The leaves glowed in the golden evening light, and fluttered in the breeze.  Overhead, the sky was blue, with clouds.  There was a layer of high clouds which stayed plastered to the sky, while the low clouds flew rapidly toward me.  The low clouds looked like giant birds or dragons.  I lay there gazing up, and I saw a flock of dragons flying overhead.  I just lay there basking in the wonder.

Then, after the flock of dragons passed by, I turned my attention to something closer to me.  Hanging on the clothesline right beside me was one of my fleece throws.  It has rainbow colors which I like, but even more, I like that the colors are not in orderly rows of stripes, but rather, they wander about.  The orange is shaped like flames.  So I stared at the fleece for a while, and its beauty filled me with wonder, just like the beauty of the sky and the leaves filled me with wonder.  An exquisite evening.

One good listener

For the past 9 years, everyone is like: "You're depressed."  "You should exercise more." "You should rest more."  "You should eat more meat."  "You should be more vegetarian."  "You should be gluten free."  "You should get a more challenging job."  "You should retire and not have any job."  "You should be grateful for your job."  "You should go out more, be more adventurous."  "You should take more medications."  "You should take fewer medications."

It's like being under siege.  I have one friend who doesn't do it.  He's the only person in the world who knows how to behave.  Even professional counselors don't know how to behave.

He said it is because he has so many medical issues and doesn't like to be told what to do.  I told him most of  the people who tell me what to do have medical issues too.  In particular, I mentioned parents.  I said, "Parents think that because you were a baby once, that you don't know anything.  They think they have to tell you what to do."   I commented on how parents don't like to get advice from their parents, so you would think they would know people don't like to get advice from parents, and they wouldn't give advice to their kids.  My friend explained, "There's blinders for that."

I am so grateful to have one good friend.  

An egalitarian college president

I work at a university where the president has a chauffeur who drives her from one building to another on campus.  She corrects any student who dares to call her by her first name.  She expects her vice presidents to rise when she enters a room.  This offends my values.  Quakers are the ones who went to prison for refusing to take off their hat for the kind.  I am stuck here until I find another way to earn a living.

Marlboro College is one place that has a very different set of values.  I have applied for jobs there, but I have not been offered any jobs there. 

The Summer 2012 Marlboro College alumni magazine has an article about a professor on the occasion of her retirement.  The professor, Laura Stevenson, joined Marlboro in 1986.  She says, "The first winter I was here we got a big snowstorm, and when I finally got to campus with my snowshoes and shovel, there were the president and the dean shoveling the walks."

The Spring 2015 issue suggests that the trend of non-snobby presidents has continued.  Regarding an ice storm in 2008, the magazine says, "Ellen was one of just a few people able to get to campus.  She opened the kitchen and ended up flipping pancakes." 

Ellen is the president of Marlboro.  The magazine refers to her by her first name.  The president of the university where I work not only refuses to be called by her first name, she also insists on being called by a pretentious title. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Humans who do evil deeds

Teacher Becki Norris writes about her former student in her article "Why I Testified on Behalf of Dzokhar Tsarnaev"
Why do we feel the need to believe that monstrous deeds can only be committed by those who are evil to the core? Is it too difficult to see the world in shades of gray, too disturbing to confront the idea of a good person turning to unspeakable acts? Over the past two years, I have had to accept that a kind and gentle temperament is not a lifetime guarantee, and a smart and caring child can go far, far down an evil path. I have discovered the painful truth that when you care deeply for someone, that does not stop even if he does unfathomably horrible things. We humans are surprisingly good at holding two irreconcilable ideas in our psyches at the same time. Yes, he did the unforgivable. And yes, I still love him. And — this one is hard to fathom, I know — he is a human being who still needs love.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Beginning Place by Ursula LeGuin

Different from the books I usually read.   The books I read usually have more plot.  Usually, I have to keep reading to find out what happens next.   It reminded me a bit of Tree By Leaf by Cynthia Voigt. Both are slow-paced, both have a sense of the sacred, and both convey a message.

In the Beginning Place, there's a man and a woman who start off with an antagonistic relationship and end up falling in love.  To me, that is a really trite plot device.  And I hate it most when you don't really see the relationship develop, when it's just like boom, now they are in love, instead of being a relationship that is built over a long time, with the building block of many small interactions.  And this book was one of those without sufficient development.  Yeah, they were starting to work together, a partnership formed by the necessity of circumstances.  And yeah, they went through a traumatic experience together, which bonds people.  But then all of a sudden they are having sex, and then all of a sudden they declare they are married.

So, my main complaint about the book is the abruptness of the relationship.

A good thing about the book is the view of the world: Reality is harsh.  Reality is working a job you don't like.  Reality is trying to protect your parents, but they are crazy and make crazy choices that hurt you, and there is nothing you can do about.  Fantasy provides refuge.  But reality keeps on being real.

Another good thing: Page 175, the female character's experience of being hugged by the male character: "He was a wall, a fortrees, a bulwark, and mortal, frail, easier to hurt than heal; dragonkiller, child of the dragon; king's son, poor man, poor, brief, unknowing soul."

We are just poor humans, fallible, breakable, but the comfort we give to each other is warm and strong.