Poverty and How We See It

On my recent drives, I’ve really enjoyed listening to On The Media. Specifically, their recent long series on poverty and its representation in the media has been fantastic.

Myths, preconceptions, and unwillingness to learn can negatively affect our opinions of other people. These failures to critically think can also lead us to make harmful or destructive choices. Poverty is one of those areas where I see the greatest divergence between expert opinions and media portrayals. This podcast series entertains well while informing. No preaching, just questions and people sharing. Check it out.

Factual Economics through Cartoons: Review of Economix

In 2016, I read a lot of books. I would recommend one above all the others though, to a general audience. Economix, written by Michael Goodwin and illustrated by Dan E. Burr, is the most generally useful book for understanding our world I read all year. It focuses on factual economics, or how economic theories interact with actual reality, instead of the fantasy land of much basic economic writing.

Though cartoons may not make you think of factual economics so much as goofy economics, this is a well illustrated cover.
The fun cover of Economix

Factual economics is my own coined term, not Goodwin’s, so I’ll give it a quick explanation. To explore the differences between factual economics and economics as it is usually presented, let’s start by talking about Spaceballs1No one has ever said this before, ever..

Continue reading Factual Economics through Cartoons: Review of Economix

Notes   [ + ]

1. No one has ever said this before, ever.

Aphantasia: Do You See What I See?

People who have aphantasia do not think, or remember, using visualizations. For some of you, this sounds absurd (for more information on aphantasia, various writers have published a plethora of good primers for you). Let me remind you that other people have differences, uniquenesses, that you cannot see. My father discovered that he had red-green colorblindness when he was 45 years old. Workers had laid an outline in the lawn, orange paint on green grass, and he didn’t see it. He fumed over their mistake – “Who just forgets to paint a line?” We’ve come to terms with it since then; colorblindness and its genetics are well known to our extended family now.

A recent article on The Establishment mentions this marvelous pulling away of the curtain. To some with aphantasia, learning that a friend can think and experience a remembered image feels like learning that they have telekinetic powers. So maybe more openness about people’s unique mental experiences can find a place in the world.

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Arrival and the Tools It Offers

Let’s get preliminaries out of the way. Arrival is an instant classic in the science fiction genre. Accordingly, this musing on it is entirely composed of spoilers. If this bothers you, watch the film first. Quotes are as close as I can easily get them. While I have read Story of Your Life, the amazing Ted Chiang novella that this is adapted from, I will not discuss it here since Arrival stands alone very well and I tend to find page-to-screen discussion tiresome at best. The meat of the post begins below the fold.

                           These our actors,
 As I foretold you, were all spirits and
 Are melted into air, into thin air:
 And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
 The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
 The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
 Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
 And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
 Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
 As dreams are made on, and our little life
 Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest, Act IV, Scene i1Retrieved from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Prospero.

Continue reading Arrival and the Tools It Offers

Notes   [ + ]

1. Retrieved from the Folger Shakespeare Library

View from Bob’s Bayou

Come on, and join me in the muck. Here I’ll be sharing my introspective, reflective writing. Why the muck? For me, it’s about perspective. The realm of human thought (writing/language/experience) is vast, so vast that each of us will walk through practically none of it before we are finished. Imagine it as a wilderness; fully embrace the analogies of exploration, settlement, colonization that follow. A writer takes her own journey through this land, and attempts to convey in some way how you can see what she sees, walk where she walks, whether for a whole journey or just to an interesting sight. Some writers will take you up a mountain path, each step carefully laid out, and pause every so often to present a breathtaking vista.

(I hesitate at such ledges. I know that every so often I have tripped and fallen on my face, and would not like to do so while perched over a sheer drop. When others feel out their poses on the earth’s jutting lip, I worry for them as I scoot back towards a rock or wall, which is briefly my stake; I tether myself to it.)

A dishonest mountain guide will remark to you during such a respite that you now see all there is: the earth is rolled out before you like a map, and like a map reader, you can point to each feature and discern its importance, its scale, its soul, without budging from your perch. The mountain view is all you need to understand the earth as a whole, they say, and those who cannot ascend to such lofty heights know nothing, not even the shape of their own plots. You see at once the well-settled cities, the narrow paths, and are comfortable, exhilarated, in your position.

An honest guide will tell you that while you see far, and the air is clear, and the sight is beautiful, each place has its secrets, even, especially, from you. Those valleys and ravines turn away from you at times and hide their depths, and you will never see the bugs and leaves of a nearby hillock without going there yourself. Even your own mountain hides worms beneath your feet. Perhaps caverns twist throughout the foundation, carving hidden ways through what some would think a monolith. The honest guide, when you ask about a distant place, will recommend a different path to know more about it.

But like I said, I’m not on that mountain path. I’m going along the bayou, walking, wading, at times, and at other times floating or paddling. I can’t see forever and don’t claim to. But the windings of the water might take me anywhere I would have seen from higher up. I skirt the edges of civilization, and drift with its refuse.

So float along with me for a while, or walk beside me on the bank. We’ll search out some delicious crawdads, and hopefully see (but not touch!) an alligator or two. The view down here is narrow; each bend in the bayou will tease then surprise, and the things we draw up from the muck will take some elbow grease to be presentable. If you get tired of the pace, please take a side trip up a mountain path, and once you’ve seen more of the infinite floodplain come back down and let me catch up. You know where to find me: in a land of far-seers I’ll be stuck in some weeds; in a land of dam-builders I’ll be with the dammed. To those who dredge and survey, pollute and condemn, I’ll nod to their aims and still go along, one with the driftwood.

Wading through the Muck