Shards

If you must
sit inside on a bright and lovely day,
focused--for definitions that mean unfocused--
on the screen of a computer,
not the world around,
then the shards of life caught in its web
offer beautiful solace.

Yesterday, while cleaning the screen, I found brief mention of Neja Tomšič’s Tea for five: Opium Clippers. It’s a transitory artwork, a happening, so I can’t experience it, but I’m struck by what tiny glimpse the Internet has given me of her work.

Oops

The details of the scandal the Justice Department uncovered are notable not because rich people try to buy their way into higher education, but because these particular rich people went about it all wrong.

Libby Nelson, Vox

Or, as The New York Times wrote in their editorial on the subject:

But this case is not a defense of meritocracy in college admissions. What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.

The key distinction here is not just the amount of money, but the recipient. A donation is made to a college, while a bribe is paid to an employee who, in effect, is stealing an admissions slot, hawking it and pocketing the proceeds. (To comply with tax laws, donors also cannot engage in an explicit quid pro quo with a college. The well-rehearsed pas de deux of donations and admissions must be made to appear as a voluntary exchange of gifts, not a binding deal.)

And Frank Bruni is as shocked as everyone else is to find gambling going on in Casablanca.

But let’s pretend for a moment that nobility, aristocracy, and meritocracy are not synonyms for plutocracy, and study for next month’s SAT.

I suddenly felt as though I’d failed a test I didn’t know I was taking. 

Rainesford Stauffer

Exit Numbers

I recall being supremely irritated when Pennsylvania changed the exit numbers on I-81 from sequential to numbers based on the mileage. My complaint was that I no longer knew how far I had yet to go before getting out of Pennsylvania: the consecutive numbers were a countdown to my destination: 10, 9, 8, 7 ….

For some reason this was more important to me than the actual mileage.

Only the Emperor’s Clothes Change

It’s remarkable how little changes over time.

Doesn’t this 1989 complaint of Audre Lorde’s sound familiar?

“We are a territory of the most powerful country on earth, supposed to be. Why are there almost 700 families still homeless? If we do not learn the lessons of Hurricane Hugo, we are doomed to repeat them. Because Hugo will not be the last hurricane in this area.

What lessons were learned, by whom?

via JSTOR Daily

One of my nieces is visiting for a while, and, as the other children are in school, the question asked is, “But what will she do all day?”

I don’t know. What do you do when you’re left to your own devices? What do you do when all of time is yours?

Hi-Phi Nation: a Philosophy Podcast

The February 2019 dead tree edition of Chronogram, a local magazine here in the Hudson Valley of New York, had a brief interview with Barry Lam of Vassar College about his philosophy podcast, Hi-Phi Nation. I listened as a result, and found Hi-Phi Nation to be entertaining and interesting, even punny. But I may be an outlier: check it out yourself.

Economists enjoy great media cachet. I don’t see philosophers being revered in the same way as go-to problem framers.

Philosophy has the reputation of being a little old-fashioned or weirdly inaccessible. We haven’t done a good job in philosophy of putting ourselves as one of the branches of people who have been thinking about these kinds of things and have a stake in it and can offer a way of approaching these problems that an ordinary person concerned with social issues and what’s happening with the world can access. The public has to feel that philosophers are offering an insight versus just arguing endlessly amongst themselves about things that nobody else cares about.


Yes. People don’t like jargon, for good reason. But what they really hate is uncertainty.

They also ask tough questions like, “Philosophy? What kind of job can you get with that? Stand-up philosopher?” As if nothing is worth doing for itself.

And as if philosophy is not something that everybody can do.

Respect

One of my favorite things about the Internet is discovering kindred minds, often in unexpected places.

Cate Huston writes in Why you can’t manage humans like they’re software:

There’s a comfort for the mathematically inclined in returning to the certainty and understanding of mathematics, to think in systems and optimize for efficiency of communication between them. These things work, up to a point, but they are too static for the messiness of humans and the chaos of growth. If we leave out trust, and we leave out developing each other, we will never scale.

Some days I have great hope that the world of work will move beyond treating people as things.