Archive for August, 2013

In dissent of the dissenting viewpoint.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on August 31, 2013 by goatmeal

(Apparently I wasn’t the only one a little irked by that Wall Street Journal article calling us “weak.”  I was a little baffled at the assertion that the possibility of either Ronald Reagan or Matthew Broderick accidentally destroying the entire world somehow provided less of a doom cloud over our youth than the reality of an airplane flying into a building did over that of the Millenials. But to those a bit older than I, this sort of assertion was a complete slap in the face.  I remember when the Berlin Wall came down, I remember knowing it was a big deal.  But at the time, I was honestly more concerned with whether or not my parents would let me go to the Motley Crue concert.  Today’s guest blogger was there for the end of the Cold War, risking his life.  And he took some exception to this statement.)

Here’s a link to some irritating generational navel-gazing that somehow manages to ignore one of the most salient features of the generation in question. Since the generation in question happens to be mine, I’m a little touchy about it.

There’s a whole lot of stupid in the editorial, but the absolute worst of it has to be this line: “For us, the waning Cold War was just a theoretical threat, and the vestigial air-raid drills at school a curiosity.”

Really? Dana Milbank’s just a little older than I am, so he has no excuse. Because I vividly remember “We begin bombing in five minutes.” I remember that we didn’t pay any attention to air-raid drills because everyone knew there was no point, that if it ever happened anyone who lived in any major metropolitan area in the US (and in the USSR, to be sure) would very shortly either be dead or wishing they were.

And from a little later, I remember being stationed in Europe when the Wall came down, when the USSR was falling apart, when no one knew whether or not the old men in the Politburo were going to try to go out in a blaze of glory. Our Cold War tasking, which can roughly be described as “plugging the Fulda Gap,” was a suicide mission, and everyone knew it. There was too much Warsaw Pact armor, too close, for our position to last more than a day, two days at the outside. If the balloon went up, the war wouldn’t be won–assuming it didn’t turn out to be an all-out nuclear exchange that would render the concept of “winning” absurd–by the people on the front lines when it started, either NATO or Warsaw Pact. It would be won by the second or third wave over, by the kids who were in Basic when I went over. Everyone, absolutely everyone, who was there at the beginning would be dead.

So yeah. The “weakest generation” won the Cold War. While evil old men played games with kids’ lives, as they always have and always will, we held the line. We were ones with the packs and the rifles (or in my case, with the bandages and IV bags). The war wasn’t won in Washington or London, and it wasn’t lost in Moscow or Berlin. It was our war, and we won it. We held the line.


-Daniel Dvorkin



A dissenting viewpoint

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 29, 2013 by goatmeal

I stumbled across this article yesterday.  I’ve heard our generation called lots of things over the years, but weak is a new one.  And it doesn’t seem to fit very well.  As far as labels go, “slacker” had more credibility than “weak” does.  We have more jobs right now than any of the other generations combined, that doesn’t sound weak.  We made Google, and most of the rest of the internet for that matter, that doesn’t sound weak either.  When we were kids we had stage-diving and mosh pits, while today the hipsters are…what, clapping their hands or something?  Even in what some might consider to be our least desirable attributes: divisiveness and cynicism, weak doesn’t seem like the best word to describe what’s going on.  The author uses politicians like Sarah Palin as an example of our generation’s weakness.  Believe me, I’ve heard many derogatory things about Sarah Palin over the past five years, but I don’t think weak was ever the word people chose to describe her.  Maybe you have to be a writer at the Washington Post to understand how our generation is weak.  But maybe there’s a better explanation for what the politics of our generation looks like.  I think I’ll have something to say about that next week.

stock photo stereotypes.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 27, 2013 by goatmeal

An interesting article from a few days ago at Jenx67 on how different generations are being portrayed in stock photos.  As you may have noticed, I don’t post many photos, so I’ll just let that article speak for itself.

Also, if you were interested in opinions about the recent VMA debacle, look elsewhere.  Haven’t seen it.  Don’t plan on seeing it.  Whatever happened probably has nothing to do with what I want to write about anyways.

The end of Burning Man as you knew it.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 25, 2013 by goatmeal

Tomorrow is the start of Burning Man: where 60,000 people will flock to the Nevada desert for a week of self-expression, self-reliance, and setting a 100 foot tall wooden sculpture aflame.  I’ve never been to Burning Man, but I have had many friends over the past thirteen years who have.  For many of these people, it has been an event that inspires their lives in the same way that church inspires the lives of the religious.  No, that’s not quite fair.  It’s more like the way a pilgrimage inspires the religious: lots of people go to church, but not all of them would drive out into the middle of the desert for their beliefs.  For many of my friends, Burning Man has become a sort of moral compass.

Or at least it was. 

Recently, I’ve been hearing different stories from some of my friends who were Burning Man veterans when I first met them thirteen years ago.  Burning Man, or perhaps it is just some of the local Burning Man events, is not what it once was.  It’s not my place as an outsider of this event to go into any details, but from what I’ve heard it sounds like 28 isn’t what it used to be.  And there’s a lot more people who are 28, or thereabouts, redefining the event. Meanwhile the 40+ crowd has slowly thinned out: moving on to other things, settling down, or just plain broke.

For those that are left, that must be a sad tale indeed.  But those are the very sorts of tales that this blog is about.  So if you have that story and want to share it, let me know.  If you think that story has been eloquently shared elsewhere, let me know and I’ll put up a link to it. 

Back to School Special

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 22, 2013 by goatmeal

With the back to school season in full swing, there’s been lots of things like this popping up lately.  It’s not a generational article per se, but if you have kids and you care about what’s happening to them in school, I suggest that you go read it.  This is not an outlandish view.  In fact, everyone I know in education feels similar to this author.  I’m sure there’s someone somewhere that doesn’t feel this way, but if so they haven’t spoken up at any of the dozen or so educational conferences I’ve been to in the past decade.  And it’s not some pinko academia thing either: the professor I had in the educational assessment course I took in graduate school not only lambasted No Child Left Behind, but reminded us that Ted Kennedy’s name was on that bill, too: he was a somewhat rare conservative acamedic but still knew it was a bad idea.  And if you think standardized tests are a good thing for K12 students, ask yourself when was the last time you answered a multiple choice question as part of your job.  If you don’t remember what a multiple choice question is, it’s where you are given four choices and you have to color in the one that you think is the best answer.  And to further muddy those waters, in a time of desperation I once worked for a month at a test grading factory where they send all of those free response questions that are supposed to check for higher order thinking skills.  The tests are graded by temp agency workers.  The same people who unload boxes into warehouses and check Odwalla bottles for ecoli before shipping them off to the store.  The only difference is you don’t have to take a shower at the end of the day and they pass out free hard candy to make sure that you stay awake.  So yes, I toe the party line of free thinkers who think standardized testing is a bad idea.  It’s the one area in academia in which it’s actually possible to herd cats (which, if you think about it, makes you wonder who writes these tests anyways…)

Until I read this article.  It didn’t so much change my mind as cause me to realize just how much windmill tilting this whole anti-standardized testing movement actually is.  Although it’s so plainly evident that it is a generational issue, I didn’t realize how much until I read this article.  And when I did I realized the extent of the futility in trying to do away with standardized testing. Continue reading

Come share your stories

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 17, 2013 by goatmeal

My whole intent when I started this blog was for it to be a place to share stories.  So perhaps now that I’ve thrown a few examples out there, it’s time to formally acknowledge that.  If you are part of Generation X and would like to write about something, pretty much anything, let me know.  If you don’t think you are part of Generation X, but you know it’s looming close by and you don’t identify with any other generation, the same rule applies.  If you think you are part of a generation that hasn’t been officially named or that most people would have to google to find the name of, the same rule applies.  If you have your own blog and would rather write stuff there, maybe I’ll link to it on occasion if I see something that fits particularly well with the theme of this blog, especially if you ask me to.  But possibly even if you don’t.

So I thought I’d throw a couple of ideas out there for people to think about: Continue reading

Overdue for a midlife crisis (or not)

Posted in Uncategorized on August 15, 2013 by goatmeal

So yesterday when I provided links to all those other blogs out there, I linked to this story on Salon.  It’s kind of long and nobody clicked on it, but I think there’s an interesting story there: one worth reading.  But I’ll put it in my own words for you, and a lot fewer of them.

The gyst of the article is that we’re 40 and we aren’t having our midlife crisis yet.  In fact, it doesn’t appear that we’re likely to have one any time soon.  We’re not sporting combovers, buying sports cars, or leaving our wife and kids for 20 year old grocery store cashiers.  We’re not turning into George Webber, or Lester Burnham any time soon.1  Instead we get This Is 40: not a story of someone trying to run away from reality, but what it’s like to be stuck in the middle of it even as our bodies start to not work the way they used to.

Granted, some of us go to Burning Man and participate in various other seemingly juvenile behaviors, but those of us who do have been doing so forever.  Some of us might be slow to grow up, but when we do get around to it, it tends to be for good.  And the reason is because we don’t really have much of a choice: backwards on our home with kids to raise and our retirement in jeopardy.  We don’t really have a need for a mid-life crisis because, as Wendy Fonarow is quoted in the article, “our generation is characterized by not hitting a wall of midlife crisis but having crises throughout.”

When I changed careers at 24, within weeks of the release of Office Space, I called it my quarter-life crisis.  When I went back to grad school for the second time at 33, I called it my third-life crisis.  In some ways, I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to make these choices, having kept as many of my options open as possible for so long.  Otherwise I’d probably be hating my life as the director of engineering at some circuit board shop in Malaysia, but that’s a story for another day.

The thing is, that’s what we’ve been doing this whole time: keeping our options open.  It’s a survival instinct and, for some of us anyways, it seems to have worked.  And I gotta say it feels a hell of a lot better than being Woody Allen.

1-      And I could probably add half the films starring Michael Douglas or Bill Murray plus all of the ones with Woody Allen in them.