.time for the sea
Albert McWilliams: You're Going to Kill Someone


If you keep driving like that, you’re going to kill a cyclist. When you do, it’s going to suck as much for you as it does for them. When you drive by my head at 50 mph I can’t have this conversation with you, so I’m going to do you a favor and talk you through all of your arguments as to why…


I’ve been here before, a handful of times. Arrogantly, I keep thinking I should know it, should have it pinned by now. But a place is never entirely what you remember. Memory is the muse that brings us back to a country, that tricks and lures us in so we can start again. Correct everything we understood wrong the first times and find, instead of the comfort of the familiar we were expecting, the thrill of challenge we needed.
And so I must be reminded how Thailand can paint a day in only cuts of green. How can there be so many greens?
I almost forgot the sweet sour smell of hot fruit rotting in the city. And the fingers of frangipani and incense and rain right before it gives up and collapses down upon us. How nothing is ever scent free and even 1,800 shoulderless, dog and cattle dotted, mountain road curves up to the border of Burma, it is not silent but a different kind of loud. I come from a state where things freeze to death, annually. We don’t understand how tangles of spiders and insects and birds and cockroaches and lizards and bats and invisible howling animals multiply upon themselves wildly until the jungle is so thick with life it consumes you in passing. Here, in the briefest pause between wet footsteps that suction themselves up from the earth with a slurp of mud, you can watch a curse of ants take down a massive mutant beetle. His arms - a hundred thousand times larger than one of his attackers, shooting out, flailing, failing. Watch them topple him to his back and march on him until he only shudders in the rain here and there. Watch and feel thrilled, feel guilty, feel terrified. We rented a truck here for the freedom to explore the north. Trading towns and hill villages and hot springs and coffin caves. Chris learned to drive on the left and the art of knowing when to pass pickups small as toys, hauling corn stacked and tied six feet tall and motorbikes sagging under whole families. Here, we learned we loved Mae Hong Son and were bored by Pai, by the backpackers too busy distinguishing themselves from their contemporaries back home to choose to be where they are. To see not just the smoothie shop but the clutch of Karen or Shan women that gather to eat and laugh around a lantern in an alley that is not as dark as it seems at first. We walk by in the dark and call out a greeting in the wrong dialect like kind dummies and mostly they ignore us. Which feels fair. We are at that magical time bending point in a trip — the place you pass a few days after lamenting that you’ll never be able to cut free. You’ll never stop thinking of work and worrying about meetings to come and projects to finish and work left for others. And then somehow, you have arrived. And now we sleep when we are tired and walk until we don’t feel like it anymore. Try every bag of inventively flavored peanuts 7-11 carries and record our favorites. Watch the town carry on and the river under the rain and the homeless dogs wrestle and sleep. Get haircuts and play cards and smell the day and slow down. We do not worry about email, we get lost in book after book. Give in to obsessive genre reading (fiction set in Khmer Rouge era Cambodia for me; my heart won’t ever stop breaking). Finally, we are here knowing this place in the present and setting up all the overconfident understandings that will wash away next time we come back. And still, there is so much joy in building them up. You could start to believe that there is greater peace in building sand castles than carving stone.

No. 45

Delete my Facebook account, a few hours later my laptop decides to commit suicide and I lose all my files (music, university work) since January. Coincidence? Or is Zuckerberg pissed?


At CC’s Indecision, I wrote briefly about Swifto, a start-up described by FT like so:

Swifto, the “Uber for dog walking”, allows pet owners to “hail” a vetted, insured, and “college educated” dog walker, then track the walk via GPS on their phone.

When the revolution comes, the tech gurus behind Swifto are going to be among the first to the wall, but in the meantime, my friend Trav points out that Swifto’s college-only recruitment policy is a good data point in the debate between the signaling v. human capital models of college education.
Most people — especially educators — would like to believe that the employment-rate and wage premiums that come with a college degree are a result of the skills college graduates have acquired in the course of their studies.
Proponents of the signaling model contend that a college degree doesn’t confer marketable job skills, but it does send a signal to employers that you are a basically competent non-weirdo who will mostly show up on time and fill out the TPS reports without complaint. A four-year education is an experience in hoop-jumping. You have to keep track of major requirements, complete a general education curriculum, submit paperwork on time and be conscientious enough to pass exams. If you do this successfully, you get a degree that shows employers you’re a conformist who can follow direction.
Count Swifto as a one piece of evidence in favor of the signaling camp. It’s hard to believe that specific skills learned as a Biology or Political Science major make one an especially competent dog-walker. But graduating with those — or any major — does demonstrate your work ethic, conformity, and intelligence, all things that employers value.
The other public policy-related lesson here is that the economy still sucks if companies can get away with demanding that their dog walkers have BAs.