Two wishes to change the world

In my last post, I briefly mentioned having attended a Meetup at The Last Bookstore; the theme was “The City as a Canvas for Creative Envisioning,” and the event featured a panel of speakers from various nonprofits and community orgs discussing the challenges and rewards of the type of work they did. It was really exciting not just to hear from them, but to see the broad range of people who attended the Meetup. More than half were interested in urban gardening, as a way to promote green spaces, to improve community health and nutrition awareness, to reduce the carbon impact of food through hyperlocal sourcing and/or to help funnel fresh produce into food deserts.

After the panel, the audience counted off into five groups and had 45 minutes to come up with a proposal to improve the city, based on the earlier topics of conversation (financial improvement/investment downtown, increased bike access, urban gardens). Ro Kumar, one of the people in my group, shot and cut a video of the event:

Ro also co-founded localblu “an online community exchange” based on economist Gunter Pauli’s idea of the “blue economy,” which seeks to realize the full potential of small local economies. (Incidentally, Ro and his brother converted their home into a farm and learning center, and Ro’s brother now gets his entire income from produce sales. )

My group ended up discussing ways to improve Pershing Square to make it more of a central gathering point for downtown. We didn’t get to discuss the specifics in very much detail, because we had one woman in the group who kept hijacking the floor with lengthy non sequiturs, essentially every thought she’s ever had about Pershing Square.* One of the points she brought up, though, was that Pershing has no water fountains so that people who are homeless won’t gather there. (I haven’t verified this — she said a security guard told her that.) At the 10-minute warning, I suggested that we had discussed a lot of the issues of the park and could start brainstorming solutions, which of course meant that I was volunteered to represent our group in the presentation of proposals.

There were a few interesting ideas, although I can’t remember any of the specifics all that clearly because I was a) exhausted from being up really late the night before b) trying to assemble a proposal to cover for our group. One idea was to have an Art Walk-style event in the Warehouse District, especially if those spaces applied for mixed-use licenses and were able to host different types of events. (The Last Bookstore is already this type of space; have I mentioned that I love it? Read this article.**) Most of our conversation ended up being about intentional design for community spaces — figuring out what a neighborhood’s values are and bringing in businesses, organizations and individuals to achieve specific goals and a sense of community. (I spoke last, so I kind of piggybacked and pulled those ideas together — and you thought humanities discussion sections would never come in handy, psh.)

The next generation is better at everything
Even though the conversations could have used a bit more active moderation (the panels, too), I loved the intent of the Meetup, the people it drew in, and the atmosphere. Everyone was there because they wanted to be part of creating stronger community ties in LA.

Lorena and I were discussing the event a few days later, and we both realized we’ve been spoiled by working for City Year*** the last two years; if nothing else (and City Year does plenty, trust me), being part of that organization teaches you how to participate in a conversation and pull together diverse people and their ideas into a cohesive vision. I would love to have an event with the same people, with a few tweaks to how conversation was structured; the organizer wanted everything to be free-flowing, but I think it would have been helpful if people chose what group they were in based on a neighborhood or cause they were interested in, and to have more active moderation during presentations to promote more dialogue between panelists.

The group sessions reminded me of a workshop I ran on one of our last Young Heroes days. We started by brainstorming different issues they were interested in doing something about, then let them split into groups for half an hour to discuss why they cared about the issue and how they would address it. They then split into groups of 3 or 4, with a team leader assigned to each group, and had another 30 minutes to create their own non-profit and fill out a simplified logic model. The team leaders then acted as potential funders, circling among the groups to listen to speed pitches and ask questions.

The results were awesome — and mind you, it was the end of a long day, and we’d done two hours of community service outdoors, my team had been awake for more than 30 hours, the team leaders were exhausted. One of the groups I talked to proposed a mentorship program that would connect LGBT youth with adults to create anti-bullying presentations; and the group had decided not to open a physical office until they had piloted the program for a year with one school partner and could prove their success. Another group decided to take on drug and alcohol abuse, and wanted to offer family counseling and community service opportunities as a way to teach job skills to the addicts they treated. These were middle school students, mostly sixth graders, by the way.

If you had two wishes …
So on to the title of this post. One of the interview questions for City Year is “If you had two wishes to change the world, what would you wish for?” (Let’s hope I don’t get sued for this, or give some potential corps members an unfair advantage.) It’s also an interview question for Young Heroes and City Heroes (similar program, but for high school students), and over the last two years, I think I asked young people the question at least 50 times. A large majority of the middle school students wished for cleaner neighborhoods, less gang violence or that drugs and alcohol didn’t exist — issues that reflect some of the most noticeable problems in the areas from which we recruit students. I remember one boy wishing that money didn’t exist, so that everyone would be able to have the things they need and everyone would be equal.

If I remember correctly, when I answered the question in March 2009, I said that I wished that everyone would see others as they see themselves — that is to recognize each other as complex, complete human beings — and that everyone would have access to the resources they need to thrive (and I think I specifically mentioned education). After two years of service, I’m not sure those wishes would change: I think the first is what drives my passion for working to build community, as well as reflects the influences of CouchSurfers I met while abroad,**** and the second is the only ambiguous enough way I can think of addressing economic, educational, health and rights disparities.

In any case, it is always amazing to see how people open up and relate to one another when they know they’re in a space dedicated to creating community, and that the other people share their dreams of living in a more connected world. How amazing would it be if we all felt like we always had permission to start these types of conversation? How amazing would it be if we all took on the responsibility to foster these conversations?

You should leave me comments. If you had two wishes to change the world, what would you wish for? Alternatively, what’s the best community-oriented nonprofit, idea or business you know of? (Also, it’s likely that some variation of these questions will be the theme of September’s Thoughtluck, so let me know if you’re interested.)

* This was actually really disappointing, because we had an interesting mix of people, including one woman from Finland (who left early because she forgot her bike lights, so moot point) and another from London, and people from different backgrounds and interests. We chose Pershing Square because Derailer started by talking about taking her dog there at night, and then over the course of the next half hour, talked about how Pershing Square is aesthetically displeasing (true), not a place where the community can meet (we decided this was not true), is not an effective dog park (true, but … irrelevant) and has no water fountains (true). I’m condensing and omitting a large portion of Derailer’s comments. In any case, we had a lot of promising starts to good conversation, but each time, we were Derailed by Derailer, since no one really stepped up to moderate,^ though at one point someone finally pointed out that she had interrupted Lorena.

^ I also tried to interject, or at least have a side conversation, especially once we hit the 10-minute mark and the woman started discussing her dog again, but I didn’t want to be an actual moderator, because I was worried I’d be volunteered to present, which is exactly what happened.

** Let’s be real; most of you never follow my links. Here’s an excerpt:

Located on the ground floor of the Spring Arts Tower downtown, the Last Bookstore is a mix of old and new. It has pillars stretching 25 feet up to a painted, vaulted ceiling; underfoot are intermittent mosaics, all part of the former Citizens National Bank, which opened in its grand location in 1915. The light fixtures are new, created from bicycle wheels by Brad Goldhorn, and high on the south wall flows a sculpture made of wire and old paperbacks. …

*** I no longer work for City Year. All views expressed in this post are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.^^

^^ Disclaimers like these always confuse me: If someone is going to be offended by what you’re saying, they’re still going to run charging with pitchforks at whatever organization you’re associated with. It’s not like politicians can post a disclaimer on Twitter (or Grindr, lol) and say that the photos of their junk don’t reflect their political views or public office. Identity. What does it mean.

**** Believing in shared humanity and wanting others to share that further reinforced, of course, by all of the community organizers, nonprofit folk and fellow corps members over the past two years.

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Three things I’m thinking about: math, bikes and cynicism

1) Standardized tests, blaaaaaaaaargh

Over the past two months, I’ve been teaching an ISEE math prep course at a tutoring academy, helping students about to enter the sixth grade take a test to place into competitive private schools. Obviously, this brings up certain amounts of angst related to class, race, my notions of the importance of enjoying the summers of your childhood and my absolute disdain for standardized tests.*

I recently found this communitychannel video about how math problems aren’t relevant in real life, which is hilarious but did not make me feel better: “So you remember those crazy math problems they made you solve in school? Yeah, what was that for?”

(I love Natalie, but she’s not kidding about having forgotten how to solve these problems. Check out the problem at 0:26 — her friend would be 0 years old, and her friend’s sister Anna would be -5.)

One of the challenges I had while working with students from high-poverty neighborhoods over the last two years was in drawing the connection between schoolwork and real-life application. But thinking about it now, I realize this isn’t an issue that’s relegated to low-performing schools. I struggled in middle school, not because the material was difficult, but because I felt that all of seventh grade, except for algebra, was a waste of time — the curriculum wasn’t interesting, and the coursework was less challenging than what we’d done in elementary school. I was disconnected from my classes because I wasn’t being asked to think.

Back to standardized tests: I think they’re terrible. The students I worked with over the past two months are pretty advanced in math (they can easily manipulate positive and negative numbers, fractions, decimals, etc.), but they’re becoming intellectually lazy. I commonly asked them to explain how they solve problems, and a lot of the time, they were using guess and check. As a test-taking strategy, this is excellent. As a learning strategy, it’s terrible. My solution, or as close to a solution as I came up with, was to create my own problems for them to solve, mixing concepts and adding unnecessary language so that they had to decipher what information they were looking for and how to solve for it.

The middle school I worked at from 2009 t0 2010, uses connected math, a conceptually interesting approach that pushes students to conceptually understand curriculum by identifying patterns and making discoveries. Why “conceptually interesting”? Because it wasn’t effective. My students didn’t have a strong enough foundation in basic arithmetic to identify patterns, and they were expected to fulfill learning standards that were dependent on previous understanding.

David Bornstein provides great analysis of some of the problems with math education in “A Better Way to Teach Math“:**

Despite the widespread support for “problem-based” or “discovery-based” learning, studies indicate that current teaching approaches underestimate the amount of explicit guidance, “scaffolding” and practice children need to consolidate new concepts. Asking children to make their own discoveries before they solidify the basics is like asking them to compose songs on guitar before they can form a C chord.

The rest of the op-ed is interesting, too, and since you’re following a link, it won’t count against your NYT quota.

Natalie’s video sticks out for me for two reasons: One, I feel complicit in the class-based test disparities. Two, I don’t think it’s true that we don’t encounter crazy math problems or that we don’t need math. As Natalie says, “In real life, people just tell you the answers.” In general, people are comfortable saying they’re bad at math, in a way that most wouldn’t be OK with admitting they were illiterate. It’s a bit frightening, if you ever poll a group of journalists, to see how many struggle with math;*** since accurate holding-truth-to-power bad-assery is contingent on thorough, comprehensive data analysis. Compound poor math reporting with the general public’s shaky math skills and misinterpretation of statistical significance, and think about how easy it becomes for those who do get math to mislead and manipulate.

Leonard Mlodinow’s “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” provides a bunch of interesting examples of how people misinterpret numbers and statistics. (Ironically, it’s as much about the theory of randomness as Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” is about irony. It’s mostly just random in the meta sense, and it also kind of provides more biographical information about mathematicians than seemed absolutely necessary … or interesting. Wait, here, just read my GoodReads review if you’re still on this parenthetical.)

So my point, I guess, was that standardized tests, are like, the opposite of learning, but that math education in general is flawed, anyway. I find myself using math all the time — mostly for basic computation, which I will concede that calculators do faster — and I also find myself wishing all the time that strong number sense and conceptual understanding of probability was seen as more critically important. But hey, I also think that about literacy, poetry, sustainability and ethics education.

2) Biking is awesome

I always plan to go on bike rides, but the activation energy involved in getting my bike down the stairs and out the front door and two gates often stops me. I went to a Meetup on Wednesday at The Last Bookstore about using the city as a creative canvas, and hearing everyone else talk about biking was a great catalyst. I biked to my friend’s new apartment on Wednesday, and it took about half as long as it would have by bus. I also biked from her place to work the next morning and beat the bus that GoogleMaps suggested. (I had looked it up because I was worried about tutoring students drenched in sweat, but I got there early enough to cool down, anyway.)

I only went about six miles in all, but it was wonderful. I felt completely in control and free from the clutches of LA traffic. LA public transportation is not what I would call reliable, and walking places limits my exploratory radius. I’m also a fan of mixing Metro and biking, at least until I get in better shape. I always forget how freeing biking feels, but getting somewhere using myself as an engine completely changes the way I view the city and my own sense of agency.

3) Cynicism, and our struggles against it

OK, let’s be real. When I started this post as “Three things I’m thinking about,” I was planning on writing about 300 words on each topic, but I got a little carried away with the math part.****

This conversation continued for five more comments. I may digest/analyze them more later, but if you're reading this blog, we're probably Facebook friends, and you can just find it yourself.

In any case, I was also going to write something about the struggle between cynicism and idealism, the search for meaning and everything else that I write about on this blog and elsewhere, always.

The LA Times ran an article last week about the use of facial recognition software in advertising, and I was most disturbed by the kicker (I’m literally rehashing the image, sorry), a quote from a 27-year-old who describes himself as “hyper social”: “It’s not that scary. … I always get upset at new Facebook privacy settings, and then I get over it.” Umm, just read the image.

I also just finished reading “Up, Simba,” David Foster Wallace’s article about John McCain’s 2000 primary campaign, in which, inter alia, he discusses how deep political cynicism among young people helps incumbents:

“[T]he lower the overall turnout, the more the Establishment voters’ ballots actually count. Which fact then in turn … helps explain why even though our elected representatives are always wringing their hands and making concerned noises about low voter turnouts, nothing substantive ever gets done to make politics less ugly or depressing or to actually induce more people to vote: our elected representatives are incumbents, and low turnouts favor incumbents for the same reason soft money does.”

Speaking of DFW, NYT Magazine blames poorly done “post-ironic sincerity” on him, sort of; the problem is that his writing style, part of his appeal, is also infectious (see this blog, for one):

And if, even from Wallace, the aw-shucks, I-could-be-wrong-here, I’m-just-a-supersincere-regular-guy-who-happens-to-have-written-a-book-on-infinity approach grates, it is vastly more exasperating in the hands of lesser thinkers. In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument.

The problem is that people adapt DFW’s approach of not explicitly making arguments without simultaneously undermining them as a way to say outrageous things and pretend that the hedging makes them somehow less culpable. (See also Jon Stewart criticizing the ways in which TV networks abuse the question mark.)

DFW was not unaware of what he was doing; Maud Newton, in the NYT Magazine article, quotes Keith Gessen, who “applauds Wallace for ‘trying, at last, to destroy’ the oppositions between ‘irony and sincerity, self-consciousness and artifice.'” Read “Up, Simba,” and it’s painfully clear that Wallace is aware of how deep cynicism, posturing, awareness of cynicism and further posturing, paranoia about posturing and insincerity are all ruining everyone’s belief in everything, or something.

But Wallace also urges voters to get beyond their cynicism, or at least to acknowledge their complicity and the inescapability of the system:

“Let’s pause here one second for a quick Rolling Stone PSA. Assuming you are demographically a Young Voter, it is again worth a moment of your valuable time to consider the implications. … If you are bored and disgusted and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible psychological reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”

OK, fine, so I guess I wasn’t done with the post and, also, that the three things are somewhat related. It upsets me when my students shut down instead of trying to figure out a problem, because it reflects years of being conditioned not to expect to think. I really like Michael Gerson’s phrase “the soft bigotry of low expectations” (if not the reasons behind the coining of the phrase) — it makes a lot of sense in the context of education and learning outcomes. On a broader scale, too, our cynical acceptance of low expectations allows the perpetuation of systems of oppression and eroding personal rights. Inaction always supports the existing power structures.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”  — Bishop Desmond Tutu

You should leave me comments. Do I need to end posts with questions so people will reply?

* I should note that I hate standardized tests in a conceptual sense, for their purported ability to measure anything more than how well an individual can prepare for that test. As a nerd, I kind of enjoyed taking standardized tests in school,^ the same way I enjoyed math competitions, Odyssey of the Mind, and the WordMasters challenge. Once I hit middle school, though, the tests became much less interesting, and I became conceptually aware that they were taking away from instruction time.

^ Cf. this morning, when I woke up at my friends’ apartment and everyone else was asleep or at work. The only books they’ve unpacked were pop lit, a GRE prep book and a GMAT math review book. I went for the GMAT first, but got bored after taking a few chapter tests. I tried reading the GRE prep book, but it seemed kind of silly, since I’ve already taken the GRE. (This is also why I try not to go anywhere without my own books.)

** Article search deconstruction: I had the sense this article was somewhere in my gmail archive, but I realized that there were probably a ton of similarly tagged e-mails. I then tried to search for the opening quote about people being OK with announcing they’re bad at math, but realized that wasn’t specific enough either. Then I remembered the sentence “Is that a good day or a bad day?” (in his example about adding and subtracting integers). Third search result.

*** Of course, an informal poll of just a roomful of journalists wouldn’t give you a very reliable statistic. But since you’d be working with a roomful of journalists, you could probably get away with it by throwing out a bunch of percentages and interjecting “standard deviation” a few times.

**** (Pun intended, always).

The best books I never read, cont.*

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I feel like I should apologize for blogging relatively infrequently of late, but I don’t have a strong sense of whether people are checking for updates or are just following links from Facebook and Google+. I’ve been working on a short story and just did a book review of Tim O’Briens The Things They Carried for … Continue reading

The best books I never read

“… strong texts tend to become so familiar, even to people who have never read them, that they become part of what exists, at least a distort of them does. It is very strange to read something supposedly familiar, The Gospels, Great Expectations, Jane Eyre, and to find that it is quite unlike our mental version of it. Without exception, the original will be as unsettling, as edgy as it ever was, we have learned a little and sentimentalized the rest.”

— Jeanette Winterson, “Writer, Reader, Words” in Art Objects

On Saturday night, my friend Lorena and I started discussing books we haven’t read, and I was reminded of this quote (which I had recently rediscovered while flipping through old journals — I copied the entire passage I linked to above by hand). Specifically, Lorena was worried about reading Brave New World, because she was worried it wouldn’t live up to her expectations. Still, she had a sense of what the book was about, which was what reminded me of Winterson’s argument that familiar books become part of what exists — and as I was describing it, I mentioned the idea of works seeming less edgy once they become part of societal context instead of challenging or upending it, which, actually, is not what Winterson said, so when I reread the quote while typing, it was all meta and performative and mind-blowing.

As I mentioned before, and will blog about more in-depth … sometime, I just finished reading “The Most Human Human,” which I’d been meaning to check out since Brian Christian did an interview about it on “The Daily Show,” which aired on March 8. Before I read the book, the idea of the Turing test was rolling around in my brain for months, especially in relation to research/philosophizing I was doing about social media in relation to job applications.

I think the concept of not being able to unknow things is incredibly fascinating (in the same way that I think the concept of wanting to go back and change the past is bizarre, since every random moment in the past influences the present moment, and it’s impossible to know what else would be different).** Think about all of the books you haven’t read that you still consider familiar,*** or the pleasant shock of discovering that a text you thought was familiar was unsettling. As I was applying for master’s programs in comparative literature about two years ago, I had a long conversation with an assistant vice provost from UCLA about my romanticization of literate culture in England; I love the idea of culture being steeped in texts (and served with crumpets), as when I went to breakfast at my mom’s cousins place in Felixtowe, and a first edition of Great Expectations was just chilling next to the toast rack and very cheddary scrambled eggs.

That may also be why I love books about books and writers who write for readers, like Jasper Fforde and his Thursday Next series, which I think are enjoyable whether or not the reader is extremely well-read, but truly understanding and catching all the references requires a fairly deep knowledge of literature.****

I think another way to interpret my headline, “The best books I never read,” though, is to think about some of the classics I read in elementary and middle school when I was largely reading for plot. I think if I went back and reread them, I would experience that same unsettling feeling to find that old-school writers really just were that edgy with their quill pen and inkwell badassery.

* Coincidentally, I was disappointed by the second half of that book, because I’d read the beginning when my older cousin brought it with her on vacation, but I didn’t finish it before she left. I never got around to checking it out of a library, so I didn’t read the second half of the book until my sophomore year of high school. During the intervening three years, the ideas of human engineering to maintain societal castes rolled around in my mind (and “The Matrix” came out, etc.), and I was really excited to finish the book, but didn’t really enjoy it as much as I had expected to.^

^ I now have no way of knowing whether I would have enjoyed the ending more had I not had such high expectations, or whether I would still have been disappointed and that would have tinged my view of the opening.

** Tangential thought: I love re-reading books, and am firmly in the “you can’t reread a book” camp, since you bring your context and environment and mood with you with each “re-reading.” I read Maniac Magee about once a year after first reading it in elementary school, and at some point in late high school or college, I teared up at Grayson’s death, the first time I cried while reading that book.

*** For example, earlier in the evening during which I had that conversation with Lorena, someone asked us to name the book and author from whence the quote “The only people for me are the mad ones.” I guessed “a beat poet,” then Kerouac, then On the Road. (I’ll get around to reading it soon, I’m sure.)

**** Incidentally, I love that Lemony Snicket makes similar references in A Series of Unfortunate Events (cf. Sunny Baudelaire’s “gibberish,” e.g. throwing around Latin roots or calling Count Olaf’s ambiguously gendered henchperson “Orlando”).

Brain mush: Thought-luck

I just made up a new category! “Brain mush” will comprise posts about things that I’m mulling over, which means they will often be half-formed thoughts. But I often write to see what I think, and this is my blog, so … sorry ’bout it.

The like is from Aidan's roommate ... who has also heard me talk about cyborgs.

When I decided to launch this blog, I brainstormed a bunch of different categories of posts,* and I also wrote down the word “thought-luck,” with only a vague idea of what that would mean.** I was toying with the idea of some kind of digital or IRL classy dinner party where everyone brings a dish and a well-developed topic of conversation. I’m not exactly sure this is different from a regular dinner party, though, so I’m trying to develop more guidelines and considering whether themes would help.

I, for one, have realized that after I write about something, the next person who spends time with me and asks what I’m up to will at some point be subjected to hearing me rehash the contents of the post and what other people have commented about it, forcing them to take part in the conversation.*** I tend to be really intrigued by new frameworks of thinking or hearing about fields I don’t know that well, and I think I may also project that onto others. In the same way that I created this blog so people wouldn’t have to listen to me ramble about social media (cf Fig. 1), I feel like the thought-lucks would be a nice opt-in nerdfest (well, nerdfeast — there will also be food). Of course, the blog has become part of a virtuous cycle of conversations about identity and social media and whatnot, but still.

Anyway, here are my thought-luck thoughts:

  • There must be food, hence the “potluck” half of the neologism. Classy drinks are also OK.
  • There must be thoughts. I think it would be interesting to have everyone plan a 30-second sound bite of the topic they want to talk about, and to have everyone wear name tags listing their topic.
    • I imagine that people would talk about hobbies they’re really interested in, or random fields they’re into but don’t generally get a chance to talk about. No one can talk about their jobs.
    • Potential themes could be “hobbies” or “obscure topic you know a lot about” or “ambiguous thoughts you are trying to make sense of” or “something interesting you care about that starts with the letter ‘f.'”
  • Personally, I like movement during parties, but I also like the idea of having people sit at tables that are lined with butcher paper and leaving out markers. We did this somewhat often at my last job during group brainstorms and discussions, and it lets people doodle or jot down thoughts as they converse. (And I also think I’d want to throw down paper because it would make blog recapping the thought-luck easier.)
  • Update: (I just posted this, so chances are this is more of an edit than an update, but I thought I’d include the disclaimer anyway.) I think it would be neat if no one knew everyone else present, or if most people only knew about half of the others. This might not be necessary.
  • Other cool people already doing similar things: TeachUp, an experimental group, has a bunch of friends hang out and teach each other stuff, part of their quest to figure out the best ways to encourage peer learning. (They’re still getting their site together, so this hasn’t been particularly helpful on the planning front.)

So: Do you want to come? What should our first theme be? What food and what topic would you bring?

* I thought, at the time, that breaking the issues I wanted to write about would help me to keep my posts somewhat organized,^ as well as make coming up with posts a little bit easier. And I was really excited about starting the blog, and I like brainstorming on blank white paper when my mind is racing like that. I enjoy seeing ink fill pages, to the point that it’s kind of a trope in my poems.

^ I actually have come not to mind the rambling style I’ve taken on; I like to think of it as performative hyperlinking, or something. I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster,” and he uses FNs w/in FNs, so that makes it legal, right? Just prior to that, I’d finished Brian Christian’s “The Most Human Human” — blog post on this TK soon — and he mentioned the former book, as well as used DFW quotes as epigraphs, which is an interesting, in itself, analysis of influence and art and the ways in which we form our world views. Both books are excellent. 

** I have a long-standing dream of being cited as the coiner of a neologism, so it’s understandably important (I think, anyway) that I create a damn good meaning for this.

*** I feel like I sound more unhinged and socially awkward than I actually am when I describe my nerdiness in writing — I’m interesting and fun, I swear.

**** This isn’t related to anything in this post, but I wrote about kitchen essentials a few months ago for my work’s blog, and the post just went up, and I figured I might as well link to it here.

Do we make history, or does history make us?

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Two of my math students mentioned today that their essay tutor had assigned them the topic “Do we make history, or does history make us?” They said they didn’t really understand the “history makes us” part of the prompt, so we discussed it a little during our break; I asked them if they keep journals, … Continue reading