Assorted Musings

Your monthly edition of quick thoughts, cheap shots, bon mots…

1. An ideal age: to be young enough to trade on your little-kid right to ask inappropriate questions, but grown up enough to know what the right questions are. (via Francine Prose)

2. It’s hard to separate personal taste from an assessment of objective quality. Have you ever read a book that you don’t like for personal taste reasons even as you see its objective literary quality? It’s hard to do that.

3. Sometimes people are more interested in “being a” certain person rather than doing the work such a title requires. I have an acquaintance who is more interested in “being a reflective person” than actually reflecting. Lots of folks are more interested in “being a writer” than committing to the difficult task of adhering ass to chair. They want the identity caché without the hard work.

4. Two survey questions to ask to youth in a society that indirectly reveal quite a lot about a population: In general, are people out to get you or help you? and Do you want to work for the government?

5. I like observing people do even simple things. On international flights, I like watching the person next to me fill out his customs form. I’m interested in how he chooses to fill it out: in what order, what he reads carefully, etc. I also like watching people work on their computer. It’s interesting to see how and where they click. I got to do lots of observing as a child staring out the window of my bedroom out onto the elementary school situated across the street. I have spent many hours watching children play and walk around and talk. Either this tendency is creepily voyeuristic or stimulatingly anthropological.

6. Litmus test: business men who wear digital sports watch instead of nice formal watch tend to be more down-to-earth and practical.

7. People who can learn from other people’s experiences have a leg up. Most people just learn from their own experiences. By understanding others’ mistakes, you yourself can avoid them. This is harder than it sounds, and has something to do with empathy…

8. Slowness to change somehow confers legitmacy onto institutions. Colleges, for example.

9. When your relationship with someone gets to the point where you don’t feel a need to prove you’re smart, and thus you can feel free to make mistakes and take conversational risks, the relationship expands to new dimensions.

10. When you tell an inside joke, you more intensely bond with those who get it, but exclude others who now feel more intensely left out. is it worth it to tell an inside joke? If you are a blogger, would you rather have 10% fewer readers but of those who remain, have them more engaged and active and engaged?

11. “Pragmatic” is one of the most overused words. It is not clear what the apparently negative alternative is to being pragmatic. Dogmatically ideological? Who would ever cop to this?

Say PETA takes a stand saying every dog should be saved. This is not pragmatic, right, because it’s highly principled and ideological and doesn’t afford room for compromise? But maybe it actually is stealthy pragmatic because it gets attention and moves the meter. Bleh.

12. Your first observation of the working class ethnic group in a city you fly into is who is pushing the wheelchairs off the jetway in the airport. In San Francisco, it’s Chinese. In NY, it’s black. In London, it’s Indian.

13. You order a bottle of wine at a restaurant. The waiter brings a bottle to the head of table. The head of table sniffs it, swhirls it, tastes it, and then says, “It’s good.” What percentage of people say it’s not good? 1%? 2%? The theatrics, I tell you.

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