Monday, September 6, 2021

Random Thoughts, Part 15: Randomly, the Pandemic Continues


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My Random Thoughts series continues with Part 15! My last post, Part 14, was on May 31 when I hoped that we were reaching the late stages of the pandemic ... well, that turned out not to be the case. I'm not sure if this is random as the title of this post supposes (see random thought 352 for more), but I thought it was a good title. Also, I have continued to include some random memes for your amusement.

333. I’ve always been a bit of a dabbler interested a little bit in lots of things, but only rarely delving deeply into one thing. I’m the proverbial fox rather than a hedgehog. I enjoy being this way because I can sample a little bit of the vast buffet of the universe, but it always makes me feel a bit overwhelmed to be around those deep delving hedgehogs. 

334. One way to look at the American political landscape: in the last 5-10 years we’ve been making almost every political issue as impossible to discuss as abortion and guns.


335. All the emails asking for feedback from every company, organization, and institution I’ve ever interacted with get a bit exhausting. Calm down, Walgreens, you were fine. Stop being so needy.


336. Someday in 2022 or 2023, I hope people will wake up and say, “You know what? Seltzer is not actually good.”


337. While people are mocking my cargo shorts, I’m secretly mocking their clothing’s lack of cargo space.


338. How much of the manufactured outrage about “intellectual diversity” and “critical race theory” would be eliminated if we just paid education workers as much as we pay bankers and lawyers?


339. I think Enya should make a death metal album.


340. One of my least favorite types of critiques about creative fiction on the page or screen is that it somehow violates the rules of writing. I don’t pretend to know whether there really are any rules of writing. Maybe there are (although I have my doubts). Nonetheless, I find this mode of critique to be far less interesting than those utilizing it seem to think it is. I’m not sure why I should care whether a creative narrative follows any particular rules, and I rather suspect that if all narratives did in fact follow any such rules, I would be bored to tears. I’m tempted to say that “following the rules” is itself bad writing, a product not of creative artists, but rather of dour academic gatekeepers or capitalists looking to profit from a McDonald’s-style commodity that can be easily marketed and consumed.


341. Carving the United States into easily-summarizable regions or red/blue states is never going to capture a country as complex as ours. I’ve met libertarians in the Northeast, communists in the South, socialists in the Midwest, Republicans on the West Coast, and anarcho-socialists in the Mountain West. We are united in our diversity, which is simultaneously what makes this country intriguing and infuriating.


342. Sometimes I wonder how any academic discipline will continue after the pandemic, but then I remember that my own lack of motivation is not universal and in fact most academics are obsessive workaholics.


343. If it wasn’t for my intense guilt about letting other people down, I doubt I would do much of anything.


344. One tendency in the history of philosophy (both the history itself and the current discipline) that I have always found odd is the tendency to read Socrates as a dogmatist with firmly-held, well-defined beliefs about things like knowledge and virtue. Unpopular though they may have been and continue to be, I think the Academic Skeptics more-or-less understood what Socrates was up to.


345. Does anyone else think that cloud computing is unnecessarily complicated?


346. I really only care about computers enough to use them and complain about them.


347. Small people with short arms always put the toilet paper in the most inconvenient place for large people with long arms.


348. How much trouble in the US is partially caused by teaching science as a body of information rather than a process of discovery? If science is just information, and that information changes or is revised or disputed, then “science” itself becomes disputed. But if science is a process of discovery, change and dispute are simply part of the process. So, instead of saying “I believe in science” as if it’s an ideology to which one pledges dogmatic allegiance, what if we said, “I trust the best science” realizing that such trust is always provisional, and the results of the process will change? What if trust in science is less like a quasi-religious dogmatic belief upon which one bases ones entire orientation toward life and more like trusting a detective to solve a case? Will the detective solve this case? Who knows, but if they are good, it’s more likely. What will the answer be? Who knows, but if the detective is good, you can be more confident in their results. 


349. (None of the previous thought discounts issues in philosophy of science or intersections of politics, culture, economics, and science. At a deeper level, science is more complicated than I sketched out above: far less certain, far more subject to human histories and whims, far more subject to change in the past and future than most scientists will admit, etc. But as a practical matter of public good, we need to make science more flexible in the minds of the public, because the model of science as a body of information is so rigid it easily breaks.)


350. It’s hard to imagine believing either that philosophy began somewhere in England circa 1970 or that it began with Hegel. Or for that matter, that the sole origin of philosophy is Thales or Socrates.


351. I like to put little jokes, allusions, and plays on words in my academic prose. I realize this is not to everyone’s taste, because academic writing is supposed to be Very Serious. I also realize that in many cases nobody else will get the joke, but sometimes you’ve got to amuse yourself like no one is reading.


352. Who could have predicted that a country with a sketchy social safety net, no guaranteed paid sick time or medical coverage, and a long tradition of extreme individualism that includes defiance for the sake of defiance would have trouble dealing with a pandemic?


353. People will probably get mad at me online for saying this, but: getting mad at people on the internet is not always the best course of action.


354. The primary mode of social interaction these days seems to be one of haughty defiance to some perceived Other.


355. How often do we make nonsensical rules to appease nonsensical rulers?

356. It turns out students like it when you treat them like human beings.


357. Saying snarky things about mainstream politicians on the internet is not in itself a political platform.


358. I’m not sure if “people drive way too fast in parking lots” is my most curmudgeonly opinion, but it’s got to be in the top ten.


359. As the pandemic goes on, the more it occurs to me that I spent a lot of time before the pandemic arranging my activities to avoid crowds by seeing movies in the early afternoon on weekdays (just me and retired people!) or eating out or going to bars in the mid-afternoon (nice and quiet). I still miss doing those things, but for some reason this observation amuses me.

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