Long absence

I am very bad at maintaining this blog. On checking, this last weekday of my spring break for 2019, I see that the last post I made was in December 2018!

Fear not. I am back. It’s just that my work has kept me busy for a good reason. As I am getting older, I find that my interactions with undergraduate students are more and more rewarding, especially when these students are part of the elite, self-selected group of those who choose to follow the rigorous Mathematical Economics major. At the same time, my excitement for a book project I have going on has been growing, and the time I have had to make and edit photos have declined.

I am back to stay, though. And to compensate for the absence of my photos from this blog lately, here is one of my latest from a visit to the Morris Arboretum.

Morris Arboretum, 2019-02-03
Morris Arboretum, 2019-02-03

Saluting Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today’s remembrance of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., comes at a fraught time in the life of the U.S. I have been thinking for days about how to mark it, being acutely aware of my limitations as a writer in the face of this meaningful day. Finding this blog post was a gift. The writer is Daniel Little, a philosopher of social science. The point of the post is that the Civil Rights Revolution is the proper Second American Revolution. Please follow the link and read Little’s words. Let us all continue to think about how to keep the “arc of the moral universe” bending toward justice, to use Dr. King’s unsurpassed phrasing. Then let us act to bend the arc toward justice faster.

We need more women doctors

Here is a magnificently done, tear-inducing recounting by Wil Wheaton about a horribly painful experience his wife had, an experience that she would have been spared if some male doctors who saw her early in that painful episode had been more attuned to the fact that woman’s body isn’t simply a “man’s body with some woman parts thrown in”.

How to become better at rational thinking

I recently stumbled upon this article: How to Train Yourself to Be a More Rational Thinker, by Mark Hutson. I immediately started drafting this blog post, but I discovered that Hutson’s piece has so much excellent advice that summarizing it here would become an act of copying. Rather than do this, I just recommend you follow the link and read it for yourself, gentle reader. There is just one bit that I will quote verbatim, to whet your appetite. It comes from one of the more provocative and interesting thinkers I have encountered, Daniel Dennett, and it is quoted here from the Hutson article:

Psychologist Anatol Rapoport diverted people from straw-man arguments for their own good. Daniel Dennett summarized Rapoport’s advice in his own book, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking:

  1. You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”
  2. You should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).
  3. You should mention anything you have learned from your target.
  4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Not only will you conscript a more willing accomplice in your search for truth, but the exercise in itself will help you extract valuable material from the other side’s beliefs.

Being thankful

On this, my favorite US holiday, I am thankful for many things, in direct proportion to how lucky I have been in my life.

Marianne making art

First of all, I am thankful to have Marianne in my life. I am incredibly lucky to have found her, to be together with her in love, and to have been by her side while she beat back insistent health challenges, from which she appears to be free these days (I do not have in my vocabulary a strong enough superlative to modify “thankful” for this last one). She inspires young minds, seeks truth, and brings beauty to the world with her art.

I am also thankful for having had the opportunity for 28-plus years to teach in higher education, which has brought me close to many great colleagues and numerous students who inspire me and remind me daily that the daily grind of preparing classes, administrative tasks, and (yuck) grading, all give meaning to my life in proportion to what I am able to do for my students’ understanding of our crazy-complicated economic universe and for their professional lives.

I am thankful to have so many people I admire consider me a friend, be they singers, teachers, painters, artists, lawyers, or former students.

I am thankful humans have created so much beauty in music and the visual arts. I have found sustenance in music, met wonderful people through my humble musical activities, and recently discovered that, because of photographic technology, I can also be a creator in the visual arts despite being unable to draw even a convincing stick figure.

I am thankful for the millions of people worldwide who recognize the need to act to preserve our planet in a state hospitable for human life, and I am incredibly thankful the planet is still able to sustain homo “sapiens”, despite all the fouling of the nest said homo “sapiens” has done. We are all very lucky in this respect, and must strive to make this luck last.

What are you thankful for?

Thoughts on the morning after

Hatred must always be fought and vanquished. We have extra work to do now to keep vanquishing hatred, to stand by vulnerable people, to stand for our rights and freedoms, to protect the environment from the depredations of humanity.

Taking a global view, I worry that Earth’s ecosystem will purge homo “sapiens” if said species continues in its destructive ways, with strife overtaking cooperation, with walls being built instead of bridges, with mutual distrust raising the chance of hideous weapons being used again.

This election is another indication, among many in the last decades, that our species is not managing its affairs in its own long-term benefit. Thinking people, we have the duty to think of paths that will take us to a better place and to do what we can to steer humanity in its direction, with malice toward none. It’s a tall order, but I refuse to accept it is an impossible aspiration.

Or we can leave a literally scorched Earth to thriving populations of rats and cockroaches, species that seem to have awesome staying power in a changing environment. That seems eminently feasible, and inevitable if we do not actively fight the good fight.

(As posted to my Facebook timeline this morning, in reaction to the US election result.)

Holiday present buying time

Blatant promotional post coming up! (But not self-promotional.) Do you still have unticked items on your holiday present list? Then please consider this option: a calendar or two by my faraway friend Novita Listyani, a superb photographer and great friend who has been the main inspiration behind my taking up photography seriously as a channel for artistic expression. Take a look at her post about her calendars, and check our her public photography posts on Google+ or Facebook. I have already purchased her calendar for 2014 and several of her photobooks, and I can tell you that they arrived in excellent shape, printed on high quality paper.


The U.S. celebrates Thanksgiving tomorrow. For the 21st year in a row, I will be celebrating in the company of some wonderful friends in the house of one particular friend who has meant a lot to me during the darkest times of my life. At the start of the meal, we will all say what we are thankful for, and it will again be a variation of “family and good friends”, for good reason.

Tonight I want to expand on my answer. I am thankful for:

  • The people who sustain me with love, first and foremost my better (much better than me indeed) half.
  • The people who create and share beauty and teach me to do the same.
  • The researchers, doctors, and nurses who have made it possible for my much better half to be in good health more than 15 years after a scary diagnosis, delivered shortly after we were married.
  • The scientists, composers, poets, and artists of the past who have brought me the wonders of the world in its many splendors, a vast treasure that I will always be exploring.
  • My young friends who will continue on the path that no single person can ever find the end of: the path of growing in learning and beauty. As a young kid, I wanted to learn everything. I know it can’t be done, but may my young friends attain a larger measure of it than I have managed.
  • My students, past and present, who evince a thirst for knowledge and want to make the world better. They make the rigors of teaching worthwhile.