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Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family,"  by Emily Jane Fox.

And as the Trump-Kushners gravitated more to the five-star hotel and private-plane end of the spectrum, a place on their detail became one of the more desirable assignments in the administration. In administrations past, the plum gigs had usually been on the First Lady’s Detail, known as the FLD. Jokingly, agents have dubbed the FLD “Fine Living and Dining,” because most First Ladies make so many trips to so many lovely places, go out to the best restaurants, and take a few vacations with their kids, with their detail in tow. This First Lady stuck closer to home—or homes, in the Trumps’ case. She rarely made public appearances or traveled anywhere other than to Trump Tower, Bedminster, New Jersey, or Mar-a-Lago. She didn’t socialize outside much, either. 

Ivanka, on the other hand, more than made up for it. She crisscrossed the country, flitted about vacation spots at luxury resorts, frequented glitzy parties and hot restaurants, and stayed at several city and beach and country homes. In jest, some agents started referring to Ivanka’s detail as FLD Lite. Since the typical FLD didn’t exist in Trumplandia. Ivanka’s, more than anyone’s, was the assignment to get.

Ivanka’s siblings had a tougher time. Don Jr.—“Marksman”—in particular chafed at the idea of protection, for several reasons. For starters, he was generally more private than his sister. He went to his home in the Catskills to fish and build bonfires and roam around on ATVs with his kids most weekends, and took off for days-long hunting trips in the most remote parts of the Canadian bush, looking for moose, and ten-day boys’ fishing trips in Alaska. He wore flannel shirts and baseball caps, sometimes full-camp suits with neon orange vests. He flew mostly commercial, in coach, hopscotching from one flight to a small airport onto a tiny plane into a far-flung town no one on the Upper East Side had ever heard of. 

“I have friends that they only knew me as Don,” he’s said of the people he meets out upstate or in hunting camps. “They find out what my last name is and they’re like ‘I had no idea.’ You see them the next time and they’re trying to treat you differently and you’re like ‘what happened.’ Why should that make any difference? They’ll say, ‘You’re right.’ It’s a great equalizer.”


Too Short for a Blog Post, Too Long for a Tweet 163

Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America," by Richard Rothstein:

De facto segregation, we tell ourselves, has various causes. When African Americans moved into a neighborhood like Ferguson, a few racially prejudiced white families decided to leave, and then as the number of black families grew, the neighborhood deteriorated, and “white flight” followed. Real estate agents steered whites away from black neighborhoods, and blacks away from white ones. Banks discriminated with “redlining,” refusing to give mortgages to African Americans or extracting unusually severe terms from them with subprime loans. African Americans haven’t generally gotten the educations that would enable them to earn sufficient incomes to live in white suburbs, and, as a result, many remain concentrated in urban neighborhoods. Besides, black families prefer to live with one another. 

All this has some truth, but it remains a small part of the truth, submerged by a far more important one: until the last quarter of the twentieth century, racially explicit policies of federal, state, and local governments defined where whites and African Americans should live. Today’s residential segregation in the North, South, Midwest, and West is not the unintended consequence of individual choices and of otherwise well-meaning law or regulation but of unhidden public policy that explicitly segregated every metropolitan area in the United States. The policy was so systematic and forceful that its effects endure to the present time. Without our government’s purposeful imposition of racial segregation, the other causes—private prejudice, white flight, real estate steering, bank redlining, income differences, and self-segregation—still would have existed but with far less opportunity for expression. Segregation by intentional government action is not de facto. Rather, it is what courts call de jure: segregation by law and public policy.


Practice Makes Perfect

I really enjoyed this article about Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is the odds-on favorite to win league MVP in his first full year at the helm.  Those amazing and improvisational throws he is now famous for, it turns out, are practiced, built up to, and meticulously prepared for.  

It reinforces for me that the more incredible the physical feat, the more and better practice was involved.  Or, said another way, any highlight worthy of SportsCenter, memed into popular conscience, or otherwise viewed by millions was actually forged by thousands of repetitions on a practice field far away from public scrutiny.  

Professional sports is but one manifestation of this principle, albeit a very prominent and extreme example.  Whatever great thing we might desire to do in our lives before countless adoring eyes, we must first do our diligent, private, and unremarkable preparations for.  

In the era of Instagram and of reality TV stardom, it can be tempting to think we can luck our way into fame and adulation, or that fame and adulation are a reliable marker for the substance of our mark on the world.  Not so.  There is no shortcut for the mundane, repetitive, and unglamorous preparation needed to do something amazing.  Let's put in that work.


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Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death," by Caitlin Doughty:

In America, where I live, death has been big business since the turn of the twentieth century. A century has proven the perfect amount of time for its citizens to forget what funerals once were: family- and community-run affairs. In the nineteenth century no one would have questioned Josephine’s daughter preparing her mother’s body—it would have seemed strange if she didn’t. No one would have questioned a wife washing and dressing the body of her husband or a father carrying his son to the grave in a homemade coffin. In an impressively short time, America’s funeral industry has become more expensive, more corporate, and more bureaucratic than any other funeral industry on Earth. If we can be called best at anything, it would be at keeping our grieving families separated from their dead.


2018 Car Usage

This is the 10th year I have tracked car usage, so I think it's safe to say this has become a habit. As has the nerdy tracking and graphing of it in Microsoft Excel. (You can check out 2017 here, 2016 here, 2015 here, 2014 here, 2013 here, 2012 here, 2011 here, 2010 here, and 2009 here.)

As before, the Philly totals represent, in order, number of trips, number of legs represented in those trips (i.e. going to and from my in-laws, making one stop to get gas, counts as three legs), and number of legs in which I was driven (rather than driving).


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Here are a few excerpts from a book I recently read, "The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook," by Niall Ferguson:

Even today, the majority of academic historians tend to study the kinds of institution that create and preserve archives, as if those that do not leave an orderly paper trail simply do not count. Again, my research and my experience have taught me to beware the tyranny of the archives. Often the biggest changes in history are the achievements of thinly documented, informally organized groups of people.


Middle Ages

Yesterday I turned 46.  If that milestone doesn't scream "middle age," I don't know what does.

I didn't get a tattoo or a piercing, nor have I been shopping for a convertible.  Although I guess you can poke fun at me for growing my hair out.  (It is my real hair, in length and in color...no really!)  And I am prone to say "these kids" and grouse about it being too loud at ballgames and cocktail parties.

The thing about getting old is that we only age in one direction, so the only day I have to be this exact age is today.  I remember when I was little, I would calculate that in the year 2000 I would be all of 27 years old.  It seemed impossibly old and in the future.  Of course, it is now way in the past and what I wouldn't give to be 27 again.

Ah, but 46 is pretty good too.  Quite frankly, it's better than 27, by a lot.  I'm so blessed, not in the least because I can hope that 47 will be even better, and 48 even better than that, and so on.  Thank you all who are in my life, who I have to thank for my charmed life!