Monthly Archives: February 2012

What Is Your Boss Buying?

Here’s a post about the sellability of various college skills:

In order to do well in courses on 19th Century British Literature or Social Anthropology or Philosophy or American History in a properly running American college, what you need to do is get pretty good at reading and writing documents in the English language. These are very much real skills with wide-ranging practical applications.

Clearly relatively few people are professional writers, but a huge amount of what goes on at the higher levels of a typical business is a steady stream of production and consumption of reports and memos. If you can compose an email that’s 10 percent clearer in 90 percent of the time as the other guy, you’re going to get ahead in a wide range of fields.

Outside of office work, a big part of the difference between a hard-working individual who’s pretty good at his job and a person who’s able to leverage his skills and hardwork into an entrepreneurial or managerial role is precisely the ability to research things and write up plans. Everyone knows that a kid growing up in rural India is obtaining valuable skills if he gets better at English, but this is equally true for a kid growing up in Indiana.

Now of course perhaps not every liberal arts program is in fact imparting reading and writing skills to its graduates. But that’s a problem of execution not of concept. It’s a fallacy to think that in an increasingly technology-performed society that technical skills will be the only sources of value. Computers are going to put accountants out of business long before they start hurting the earnings of talented interior decorators. The important point is that mastering a specific body of facts is not nearly as useful in 2012 as it was in 1962.

I realized the other day that most of the things my employer pays me for aren’t technical skills or expertise on particular topic areas. Most of my day is spent building relationships within and outside of my organization toward goals (fundraising, partnerships, awareness-raising, etc.) defined for me by someone else.

It sometimes feels like my employer isn’t buying a set of skills from me, but rather renting my actual personality and applying it toward its own development.

I spend most of my day listening to colleagues describe their projects, telling other colleagues about them and describing them to people outside of my organization. I write lots of e-mails notifying internal and external people of things they need to know about. I try–flailingly–to convince other people to be interested in what my organization is doing.

If I had to sum up the skills that I use at work, it would be things like listening, reading between the lines, telling a good story and being empathetic. These aren’t job skills, they’re personality traits.

Sometimes I think jobs like mine represent some kind of post-Marxian dystopia where we don’t sell our skills to the highest bidder, but our selves. If there’s no difference between your personal skills and your professional ones, what is your employer actually buying?

I still fundamentally have the power to draw a line between my work-self and my weekend-self, of course. The convergence of the two simply reflects the fact that my work addresses an issue I’m personally passionate about, as well as my own failure to develop technical skills beyond liberal-arts faffery.

But I wonder what it means, at a structural level, for employers to requisition employees to this extent. As employee marketability shifts away from skills and toward selves, what will our employers start to expect from us?

A lot’s been written in recent years about the implications of employers checking the Facebook pages and Twitter feeds of their workers. Maybe our bosses aren’t monitoring us, they’re just assessing their purchase.

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Tree of Life is like ‘Wait, you did all that in four minutes?!’


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German Hospitals are Different

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Berlin Street Art Walking Tour

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Living in Berlin Lesson #471

Germans react poorly to the salutation ‘hey punk’.

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Why Did Deep Throat Leak to Woodward?

I feel like the older I get, the more I realize that the answer to the question ‘Why did [historical figure] do [historic thing]?’ always turns out to be ‘bald self-interest‘.

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I Live in a Socialist Dystopia

From a NYTimes article on Germany’s palsied domestic economy:

Now, German states can set their own shop hours, and most have lifted restrictions during the workweek — though Sunday is still taboo in most places. Florists and bakers are typically allowed to open a few hours on Sunday.

I cannot express how frustrating it is to live in a country where everything is closed on Sundays. I mean everything. Books, clothing, furniture, electronics, groceries: These are the things you will do without for fully 50% of your weekly non-working days.

When I first moved to Europe, I thought this would be something I would get used to eventually, like paying for plastic bags or  headlice outbreaks. But at least once per week I have the same inner monologue:

‘I need [household item]. I’d better stop at the store on the way home. Oh wait, it’s Sunday. … I’ll just do without that until next fucking Saturday.

The fact that florists and bakers are the only shops allowed to be open on Sundays somehow makes this even more insulting. It’s like the government is saying, We accept that human beings need items to live, including on Sundays. But we will only allow you to purchase supplies for government-approved weekend activities.

So if you want to read the newspaper, eat a croissant and fluff some tulips on a Sunday, the government will support you. If you want to fix your bike, get a prescription filled, buy furniture or make an actual meal, the government will  thwart you.

So enjoy it, America. Next time you wake up on a Sunday, buy a loaf of bread and make toast, you’re tasting freedom.


Filed under America, Berlin, Germany, Personal

The ‘Crying At My Laptop’ Literary Playlist

I read so many good articles this week! Here’s what I concluded about the world on their basis:

All of these deal with super-sad subject matter, but they’re so inspiringly well-written, you almost forget how depressing they are.

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Aw Snap

Like I said, my pictures from Buenos Aires are a themeless jambalaya of shit I biked past.

The only official touristy thing I did was visit the big cemetery in the city center, and I only lasted about 15 minutes

Whenever I got off my bike to investigate anything, I found an excuse to keep going after 5 or 10 minutes. Even my meals were mostly standing.

I know you shouldn't judge a hotel by its signage, but I'm glad I didn't stay at this one.


I made it to the museum of modern art and checked out the exhibitions for almost 20 minutes, a personal best.

This is clearly Argentina's attempt to attract the filming of the next Men in Black movie.

Dismount, snap, mount.

This park smelled like chorizo and spray paint.

While this one smelled like expat and optimism. Diversity!

This is what most of the barrios look like. Little buildings with so much character they're in danger of falling over.

Try not to notice how small the leaf is. Go ahead, try.

For some reason Argentina's Poseidon is more bored and sickly than others I've seen.

No matter where you are, banks are architected to do the opposite of invite you in.

So are cemeteries, but by the time you're invited, you don't care I guess.

This pond flooded after the thunderstorm. The joggers looked bemused and terrified, trying to stay in the little stripe between the water and the mud.

An art museum in Tigre. It's probably amazing inside, but I glided past without stopping.

Everything looks like the 1970s if you shoot it through pink clingfilm. If I had figured this out before Instagram, I'd be a millionaire.

I thought this was the ocean when I first got there. 'Worst ocean ever, Argentina!' I thought.

But by the time I realized where I was, I had already left.


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Somebody Cold Me

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Don’t Try for Me Argentina

In five days in Buenos Aires, I barely took any pictures.

And certainly no good ones.

Every day I rented a bike.

And cycled through, around and away from the city from breakfast til darkness.

Without a map, sense of direction or destination, I ended up with a random assortment of impressions of Buenos Aires I'm still sorting out.

Cruising through the inner city, you feel like the blind man feeling the elephant.

There are sketchy ghettos, inside of which are beautiful parks, next to which are abandoned colonial villas, in front of which are surly teenagers on ATVs.

The benches on this pond, for example, were occupied by cute couples, sleeping homeless people, enterprising drug dealers and solicitous prostitutes in equal proportion.

How am I supposed to make unjustified conclusions about you, Buenos Aires, if you won't hold still long enough!?

My understanding of Argentinian history is elementary, but it's this: The Spanish came to Argentina down from the river from Peru (!) and set up Buenos Aires as a customs port.

Argentina got its independence in the promiscuous period after the king of Spain abdicated to Napoleon and all of Latin America was like 'let's roll'.

Since then it's been basically nonstop turmoil. Argentina's had more revolutions than an EP.

Argentina got rich and then squandered it enough times that economic disasters have nicknames. A lot of the city looks like a slightly abandoned Paris.

The only interesting thing that happened—the only thing that happened at all, really—was that I got stranded in a monsoon.

I was biking deep in the suburbs when the sky started to close like a clamshell. 'Oh, a little drizzle will be nice after a day's biking,' I thought.

It turned out to be Buenos Aires's worst thunderstorm all year. I biked 12k back home, wetter than a coral reef.

The next morning the city awoke clear and warm, tantrum forgotten.

In a country with so many turns of fortune, this seemed strangely appropriate.

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My Years With General Motors: A Roadmap to an Obsolete Destination

I forget why, but last week I read My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan, the guy generally credited with taking GM from the 1920s hodgepodge of bickering car companies to the 1950s unified, profitable Godzilla we know, love and bankrupted.

My Years With GM was published in 1963, three years before American auto sales began their steady decline. Sloan was CEO from 1923-1956, so the book deals mainly with the string of wins the auto industry racked up between WWI ending and the Greatest Generation moving to the suburbs.

The book is apparently considered a classic, and it’s fascinating not only for its sober principles of corporate governance, but for how much of a fucking dinosaur it is. The world has profoundly changed since people like Sloan ran it, and there’s no better embodiment of this change than a 50-year-old book describing a 90-year-old company.

It’s not just what it’s about, but how its about it. Here’s all the reasons Sloan’s book would never get published today:

  • It’s written for adults. Today’s business books are required to be punchy, simple and interrupted by headlines and graphics every 13 words so businessmen can read them on airplanes. Getting to Yes, as much as I enjoyed it, has the grammatical intricacy of IKEA instructions.
  • It’s long. My Years With General Motors is a positively literary 522 pages. It’s full of intra-company memos printed in their entirety, and contains precisely two charts, both of which contain financial info printed at squinty font size. Even the fucking title is a warning that Sloan is not going to make this easy for you.
  • It’s not about the author. Sloan spends precisely half a paragraph on his biographical details on page 19, and never mentions himself again. He doesn’t write about his wife or his hobbies or his hometown. He never uses childhood anecdotes to illustrate his management style. No sentence begins with ‘like my dad always told me…’ or some such. This book is free of folk wisdom. Most modern business gurus put their own narrative at the center of their business success, and it’s jarring to read an entire book that never breaks character.
  • It glorifies profits. Sloan is famous for coining the phrase ‘the business of business is business’, and you get the feeling that if he had to sum up his life’s achievement in two words, he would say ‘shareholder value.’ Much of the book deals with Sloan’s dedication to making return on investment the sole criterion for which GM projects were developed and assessed. Considerations like community development, environmental sustainability and GM’s role in relation to the obligations of government are literally never mentioned.
  • It doesn’t give a shit about employees. Part of Sloan’s sniper-like focus on profits is also reflected in his evident lack of interest in substantively addressing the aspects of management that deal with the human species. The only individuals mentioned by name in his book are executives, and issues like unions, wages and working conditions are described exclusively as macro issues to be calculated on the basis of costs, never categories that contain actual people.
  • It contains no recommendations. Sloan describes his experiences at the company like he’s writing a police report. He never generalizes, he never uses the second person and the words ‘how to’ do not appear in that order for the duration. Sloan just describes what he did at GM. If there are any lessons, it’s up to you to find and apply them.

I don’t know if  executives are more enlightened nowadays or if they’re just better at faking it, but at least the business community gestures at the fact that companies are made up of people, and that they impact their consumers, communities and host governments.

Perhaps the weirdest thing about Sloan’s book is that I totally fucking loved it. I started it not expecting to finish, but there’s something about Sloan’s peculiar mix of Don Draper and Harry Truman that made me want his monologue never to end. I never quite agreed with his worldview, but at least I got a tour of it while it lasted.


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Know Thy Self-Help

One of the books I read when I was on vacation was Getting to Yes: Negotiating an Agreement Without Giving In. I negotiate contracts at work sometimes, so I thought I should verse myself on the way businessmen get everything they want.

I’m biased against self-help books, how-to books and business books, so Getting to Yes represented a kind of perfect storm of low expectations. I assumed it would give monosyllabic, bullet-pointey instructions for dominating a negotiating opponent through trickery, theatrics and graft. Dress nicer than him! Speculate on the unattractiveness of his wife and children! Arch your back to appear larger!

Somewhat disappointingly, the book is basically an instruction manual for how to be an adult. The core recommendation is to negotiate not from positions (‘I’ll give you $50 for that vase.’ ‘I won’t take less than $200’, etc.) but from interests (‘I’m asking for a raise because feel like I’m not appreciated enough at work.’). Negotiating from positions just makes everyone louder and stricter to avoid losing face, whereas revealing interests allows everyone to separate themselves from the situation and come up with a mutually beneficial agreement.

Even in negotiations over things like the best price for a home, the book says everyone loses out when the buyer and seller each name an arbitrary price (‘$75,000!’ ‘Never! $500,000!’) and split the difference. Instead, they should use objective criteria (‘What did the house next door sell for?’ ‘What was the property appraised for?’) and together decide which criteria is most fair.

Instead of telling you how to dominate an adversary, the book asks you to turn them into a teammate.

My first reaction throughout the book was that negotiation is far from the only area where these skills come in handy. In a million work and personal situations that aren’t negotiations as such, it would probably be a good idea to ask, ‘Why do you want it this way?’ and ‘How can we work together to make everybody happy?’

My second reaction was, Ugh this is fucking hard. It’s so much more satisfying to get a win than a mutually beneficial compromise. It takes work to find an objective price standard. It’s fucking boring to do research on the criteria applied to solving a similar problem. Regarding a work-adversary as a person rather than a role takes energy.

The times when I’ve acted like history’s greatest monster in my professional life aren’t when I was angry or avaricious, they’re when I was lazy. I can’t be bothered to regard you as a person at the moment, I implicitly decided, so let’s just put our hierarchy roles in the ring and let them dogfight.

The book won’t necessarily prevent me from ever doing this again, but at least it makes me aware of when and why I do.

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What If Social Media Makes You Smarter?

Every year I read Dave Eggers’s ‘Best American Nonrequired Reading.’ It’s a collection of essays, articles, speeches and comics with no thematic similarities other than that they’re all awesome.

The 2011 edition includes a speech by William Deresiewicz (whoever that is) to The United States Military Academy at West Point called ‘Solitude and Leadership’. For some reason, this passage made me feel simultaneously guilty and inspired:

A study by a team of researchers at Stanford came out a couple of months ago. The investigators wanted to figure out how today’s college students were able to multitask so much more effectively than adults. How do they manage to do it, the researchers asked.

The answer, they discovered—and this is by no means what they expected—is that they don’t. The enhanced cognitive abilities the investigators expected to find, the mental faculties that enable people to multitask effectively, were simply not there.

In other words, people do not multitask effectively. And here’s the really surprising finding: The more people multitask, the worse they are, not just at other mental abilities, but at multitasking itself. […]

Multitasking, in short, is not only not thinking, it impairs your ability to think. Thinking means concentrating on one thing long enough to develop an idea about it. Not learning other people’s ideas, or memorizing a body of information, however much those may sometimes be useful. Developing your own ideas. In short, thinking for yourself. […]

I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all of the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea.

By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it, too, to make mistakes and recognize them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, the defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing.  

I really struggle with this. I have the attention span of a fruit fly, and whenever I’m in a situation where stimulus isn’t readily available—waiting in line, riding the bus—I usually create my own by reading a book or listening to a podcast. It’s vanishingly rare for me to just sit there and think. 

I had an unpleasant airport experience the other day in which I basically waited around for about five hours without knowing whether I would be leaving Argentina or would have to stay another day. If I wasn’t reading this essay collection, Deresiewicz’s among them, I would have been round-and-round fixating on my immediate surroundings—Am I going to get a flight? Will my luggage be there when I arrive? Should I change my currency now, or should I wait until a departure time is announced? Blah Blah Blah. Without stimulus, my brain skips analysis and goes straight to anxiety.

It’s in those types of situations that I find I need new ideas and stories the most. Absorbing new information prevents me from pointlessly fixating on my immediate surroundings.  It’s become kind of a compulsion: The bus is an hour late? Where’s my earbuds?!

What Deresiewicz is saying is that information isn’t osmosis. You can’t just absorb ideas and forget about them until the next flight delay. Information has to be summarized, analysed and discussed to have any effect.

In that excerpt, I edited out a sentence where Deresiewicz says ‘You simply cannot [think for yourself] in bursts of 20 seconds at a time, constantly interrupted by Facebook messages or Twitter tweets, or fiddling with your iPod’.

While its probably true that constant interruption of any kind is bad for concentration, I disagree with the implication that social media and the internet are keeping us from deeply engaging with new ideas.

Personally, when I put down my book or pop out by earbuds, I don’t begin a systematic analysis of the information I’ve just absorbed. I just fixate on my immediate surroundings and start gazing ahead in my day until I find something to be anxious about — What am I going to have for dinner? Will it rain while I’m biking home? Etc.

The only way I can concentrate on an idea is to reconfigure it for a conversation, an e-mail or, yes, a fucking Tweet.

Summarizing an idea for a specific target audience (a whip-smart friend, a simpleton co-worker, an anonymous blog commenter) is how a lot of us discover what and how we think.  If you needed to sum up John Rawls’s ‘Theory of Justice’ in 140 characters, you’d have to think pretty hard about it. If you wanted to tell all your Facebook friends why you liked reading Moby Dick and they would too, you’d have to have a reasonably good grasp of it.

I agree with Deresiewicz that concentration, and the deliberate solitude that implies, is an important characteristic in a leader. But technology doesn’t prevent us from concentrating. It forces us to.

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The Problem With Apples

according to the Madrid airport, is that they have too little packaging

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‘I did not want to endorse wantonness’

I read the nicest passage today:

My daughter is sometimes sensitive beyond reason. Once, as we were sitting around a campfire, I absentmindedly crushed a cricket that had crawled near the flame. My daughter burst into tears. I did not know what she was crying about, which made everything much worse. I begged her to explain what was wrong.

‘You murdered it!’ she finally said, between her sobs.

‘Murdered it? Murdered what?’ I said.

She stopped crying, looked at me coldly. ‘I suppose you really don’t know,’ she said.

I looked blank.

‘The cricket!’ she said. ‘The poor helpless cricket. Why did you have to go and do that? It wasn’t hurting anything, was it?’

‘No,’ I had to admit, ‘it wasn’t.’ At the same time, I was impatient and unrepenting. My God, I thought, I have raised an eremite. I wanted to say: ‘Be reasonable.’ And: ‘You know, there are greater tragedies in life than the wanton death of a cricket.’

But I kept silent, out of confusion and embarrassment, and because I did not want to endorse wantonness, however trivial. In some moral sense, I suspected she was right. That is one of the troubles with morality: its indifference to distinctions of degree; its impracticality. 

It’s from ‘Bones’, by Paul Gruchow, part of that Best Essays of 1989 collection I’m still meandering through. I like how it demonstrates, in one little anecdote, both the necessity and the uselessness of using morality to guide behavior.


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It’s Getting Chile

The rest of my time in Chile kind of went by in a blur.

Chile's ridiculous shape gives it a great tolerance for idiosyncracy

And Santiago violently radiates the feeling that people cooler than you are living there.

I woke up zombie-apocalypse early every morning,

and tried to see everything,

As if it was about to disappear.

Like every vacation, you look back and realize you missed more than you saw.

Chile is a great country for brooding. There's so much great stuff to look at while you hold still in dramatic lighting.

See? Even the buildings look contemplative.

And in the mornings full of purpose, ready to be jogged under.

Or hidden from, under an umbrella.

The lefternmost building is where we were staying. Chile has more nice backgrounds than Windows 95.

We took a trip to wine country, where I discovered that riding a horse is basically the same experience as biking drunk.

That pond down there is where boxwine comes from.

We also went to a private beach to get a tan and participate in income inequality.

Chile's per capita GDP is $14,700, about one-third of the United States's.

In gated communities, the skin tone gets is 4 shades lighter, the heels 4 inches higher and the lips 4 milligrams Botoxier.

These seagulls have their own show on Bravo.

We left after an hour and an espresso that cost 6 times the minimum wage, feeling complicit.

I spent three days in Pucon, a city in the Andes Lake District.

Other than climbing the volcano, I took a bunch of long, bumpy bike rides through the countryside.

This waterfall wasn't remotely where I wanted to end up, but the nice thing about Chile is that even getting lost ends up photogenic.

The volcano is visible from pretty much everywhere, so it appears like a watermark in all my pictures from Pucon.

It's shocking how bad my sense of direction is. This lake is just 20km from Pucon, but I went there via Peru.

Getting the bee in the shot was accidental, obviously, but didn't prevent me from feeling like Werner Herzog for the rest of the day.

Trees shot with backlighting look amazingly like fractals, it turns out.

Tourists, less so.

Instead of waiting for the sunset, I'm sure I could have achieved this same effect by just holding a pink hanky in front of the lens.

This is what Wes Anderson's vacation photos look like.

On my last day in Chile, I took the car and went to check out the Andes. I drove until the paved road ended, then turned around.

This is an unavoidable metaphor for my trip. The best parts of Chile, I have a feeling, begin after the paved road ends. Next time I'll keep going til I get there.

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Prison, Crime Rates and The Limits of Ideology

In a great  New Yorker article about American incarceration, Adam Gopnik dissects the drop of crime in New York City:

The change didn’t come from resolving the deep pathologies that the right fixated on—from jailing super predators, driving down the number of unwed mothers, altering welfare culture. Nor were there cures for the underlying causes pointed to by the left: injustice, discrimination, poverty. Nor were there any “Presto!” effects arising from secret patterns of increased abortions or the like.

The city didn’t get much richer; it didn’t get much poorer. There was no significant change in the ethnic makeup or the average wealth or educational levels of New Yorkers as violent crime more or less vanished. “Broken windows” or “turnstile jumping” policing, that is, cracking down on small visible offenses in order to create an atmosphere that refused to license crime, seems to have had a negligible effect. […]

Paragraphs like this demonstrate how weak democracy is for solving complex problems. The vast majority of the population doesn’t know very much about crime, policing, prisons or what is likely to produce a favorable ratio between the three. So we fall back on ideology.

Right-wing people want harsh sentencing and strong enforcement not because these have been shown to systematically reduce crime, but because they are a component of their ideology. This is the solution they propose regardless of the problem.

Similarly, left-wing people want more social programs, poverty reduction and equality promotion not because these are empirically effective, but because they are goods in themselves. These will be the first three suggestions for government intervention regardless of the subject matter.

Like all complex social phenomena, the effective intervention turns out to be more complicated and–sigh–as always, morally problematic:

Instead, small acts of social engineering, designed simply to stop crimes from happening, helped stop crime. In the nineties, the N.Y.P.D. began to control crime not by fighting minor crimes in safe places but by putting lots of cops in places where lots of crimes happened—“hot-spot policing.” The cops also began an aggressive, controversial program of “stop and frisk”—“designed to catch the sharks, not the dolphins,” as Jack Maple, one of its originators, described it—that involved what’s called pejoratively “profiling.”

This was not so much racial, since in any given neighborhood all the suspects were likely to be of the same race or color, as social, involving the thousand small clues that policemen recognized already. […] Minority communities, Zimring emphasizes, paid a disproportionate price in kids stopped and frisked, and detained, but they also earned a disproportionate gain in crime reduced. 

I don’t know how this policy came about, but if it’s actually the case that it contributed significantly to NYC’s drop in crime rates, I wonder if either the left or the right would accept it being rolled out more systematically. In other words, are we willing to accept something that doesn’t conform to our ideology if it’s effective at solving a genuine social problem? I fear not.

Anyway, this whole article just makes me never want to have opinions about anything ever again.

Gopnik concludes:

Every society has a poor storm that wretches suffer in, and the attitude is always the same: either that the wretches, already dehumanized by their suffering, deserve no pity or that the oppressed, overwhelmed by injustice, will have to wait for a better world.

At every moment, the injustice seems inseparable from the community’s life, and in every case the arguments for keeping the system in place were that you would have to revolutionize the entire social order to change it—which then became the argument for revolutionizing the entire social order. In every case, humanity and common sense made the insoluble problem just get up and go away. Prisons are our this. We need take more care. 


Filed under America, Journalism, Serious

Other People Are Better Photographers Than Me

My friend Paloma took a bunch of photos when I was visiting her in Chile.

Not only does she have a better camera than me, but she is a significantly better photographer. Hence why these look like actual Chile, rather than Sandusky, Ohio, like mine do.

Look how happy I am eating femur.

We took this from the top of the W hotel. They charged us $3 for those palm trees to be in our view.

Contemplating the design of a life fully lived. Or, wait, I'm peeing. Yep, I'm peeing here.

If the figure on top of the cupola is gay, is it technically a 'weather vain'?

Valparaiso, feloniously pastel.

Escher gets an iPad

You can tell I took this one because BACKLIGHTING

I was seriously phobic about getting tangled in one of these. Hella of them were at like shoulder height.


We actually took this by accident because we didn't know what F-stop was. But it turned out ok!

I don't know how she got this photo to look like mid-'50s Johannesburg, but I wish my camera had that setting.

An apparently famous Paris graffiti artist was doing a huge piece in Valparaiso. We shouted and waved, but he couldn't hear us under all his dreadlocks.

It's better that you can't see the look of sheer terror on my face.

... Peeing again, possibly.

This was a mural in a Mexican restaurant. I felt slightly racist for not being able to name any Mexicans other than Frida Kahlo and Edward James Olmos.

I was so excited for local produce when I was there, but it was mostly imported from Ecuador.

This is how people travel together now, each looking at their own little screen. I can't confirm if we made actual eye contact during the trip, but at least we both took nice photos.

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