Web Miscellany: Compilation #103

Hello, there! How are you? My life currently feels like a extended layover. I’ve left my home and am not yet to my destination, yet there is no rush. I’m watching the wide-eyed children point at toy planes lifted by some invisible hand. I’m taking in the sights, content and unaffected.

Phoenix is currently in the midst of its summer monsoon season, which means three months of on-and-off sunny days followed by rainy nights. It’s the most magical time of the year, with nightly lightning shows and and sad plants lifting their droopy heads towards the heavens.

In 1931, my grandfather graduated from Caltech, bought a Ford, ferried it to Europe with some classmates, and spent six months visiting cathedrals, museums, universities, theaters, battlegrounds, and small towns across Europe. He kept a daily journal, which my mother recently discovered. Every weekend, we transcribe a week of his adventure. It’s been a joy to glimpse into the life of a man I never knew, and whom my mother lost at a young age.

Hope your week to come is a good one!


Food for thought

“The most telltale sign that a societal group is NOT oppressed is when people voluntarily start trying to ‘identify’ into it. Nobody in history has volunteered themselves into a truly oppressed group.”

Zuby, British rapper

This statement, coming from a black man who worked hard to achieve his success, speaks volumes.

My partner is permanently disabled and lives at 25% below the poverty line. Neither are categories that someone would voluntarily choose. There is systemic discrimination against both groups, including within the programs designed to support these individuals. As a middle-aged, white male, he is continually treated as inherently privileged, despite his disability and low socioeconomic status. I cannot deny there there are rampant problems with discrimination in the world, but I don’t think it’s as pervasive as we are led to believe and I don’t think those crying out the loudest have necessarily suffered the greatest injury.

This is not to criticize those who identify a particular way. I simply found this to be an interesting observation. I’ve been thinking a lot about it over the last several days. Discrimination has somehow become a “left” or a “right” issue, rather than a matter of human decency. Tribalism squelches our ability to recognize the humanity of another. Just be kind.

Something actionable

Stop watching the news. The media isn’t interested in creating an accurate sample. They select for what’s strange, upsetting, and likely to go viral. So the idea that you can get a meaningful sense of the “state of the world” by watching the news is absurd. There share whatever sells, and what sells is fear and contempt for other groups of people.

I haven’t regularly watched the news since I left for college, and I don’t miss it. Staying informed may sound like an accomplishment, but how is the information you take in actionable or impactful in your own life? What if, instead of watching the news, you were to read a book or learn a new skill? What if you were to join a local volunteer organization, rather than post to social media that your thoughts and prayers go out to the latest group affected by global disaster.

However, if you must stay up to date on the goings-on a local or global level, here’s a tip for discerning the signal through the noise: sample both sides. Wherever you fall (or don’t) on the political spectrum, spend a few minutes on CNN and a few minutes on FOX. Notice which headlines are similar. This is the news. These are the stories worth investigating. Consider disregarding the rest. Keep in mind that, as of 2012, the USA and media entities are permitted to propagandize you. They are allowed to knowingly lie about the news, so take every story with a grain of salt.

Just for fun

I almost missed the World Nature Photography Awards. Here are some winners:

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