Octavia Butler’s ‘Rules for Predicting the Future’
How many combinations of unintended consequences and human reactions to them does it take to detour us into a future that seems to defy any obvious trend? Not many. That’s why predicting the future accurately is so difficult. Some of the most mistaken predictions I’ve seen are of the straight-line variety–that’s the kind that ignores the inevitability of unintended consequences, ignores our often less-than-logical reactions to them, and says simply, “In the future, we will have more and more of whatever’s holding our attention right now.”
So why try to predict the future at all if it’s so difficult, so nearly impossible? Because making predictions is one way to give warning when we see ourselves drifting in dangerous directions. Because prediction is a useful way of pointing out safer, wiser courses. Because, most of all, our tomorrow is the child of our today. Through thought and deed, we exert a great deal of influence over this child, even though we can’t control it absolutely. Best to think about it, though. Best to try to shape it into something good. Best to do that for any child.
‘Nobody Here but Us Chickens!’ by Louis Jordan (Wikipedia)
A number-one on the Billboard R&B chart from 1946.
Apparently, this phrase originated in the early 1900s as a racist joke about a slave stealing chickens. An excerpt here from ‘Everybody’s Magazine’ from 1908:
A Southerner, hearing a great commotion in his chicken-house one dark night, took his revolver and went to investigate.
“Who’s there?” he sternly demanded, open the door.
“Who’s there? Answer, or I’ll shoot!”
A trembling voice from the farthest corner: “’Deed, sah, dey ain’t nobody hyah ’ceptin’ us chickens.”
So, yeah: pretty racist and awful!
In a radio show excerpt that I listened to (https://www.waywordradio.org/us-chickens/), the hosts suggest that by the time it had been turned into a hit song in 1946, it had lost all of that context. I think that’s an awfully convenient assertion for two white people to make over a hundred years later!
Leah Fessler: Three words make brainstorming sessions at Google, Facebook, and IDEO more productive (Quartz)
While the phrase “How might we” seems pretty basic, each word is intended to serve a specific purpose. “How” asks employees to be descriptive, “might” suggests there are good answers, but not a single correct answer, and “we” evokes inclusivity and teamwork.
Asking “How would we do this” or “How do we do this” can give employees performance anxiety, she says: People may stay silent for fear of giving half-baked or incorrect answers.
By contrast, “the beauty of the phrase ‘How might we do this’ is that it eliminates fear, stress, and anxiety by supportively implying that there may be more than one solution, and that nothing more is needed at the moment than ideas,” says Greaves. “This is the language that primes our mind for having fun exploring, and pushing beyond what’s already known.”
Understanding Non-Binary People (National Center for Transgender Equality)
People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.
WordPress Caching: All You Need to Know (Delicious Brains)
This is a very helpful overview.
Caching in WordPress is often misunderstood. In this post, learn more about some of those misconceptions & get a little clarity on the minefield that is WordPress caching.
Roxane Gay: I Thought Men Might Do Better Than This (NYT)
In his statements to the committee, Judge Kavanaugh said that the allegations against him had ruined his life even though he may well be confirmed to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court. Mr. Hockenberry and Mr. Ghomeshi also lament how their lives have been ruined. The bar for a man’s ruin is, apparently, quite low. May we all be so lucky as to have our lives so ruined.
History is once more repeating itself and will continue to do so until we, as a culture, begin not only to believe women but also to value women enough to consider harming them unacceptable, unthinkable.
Q&A: Dr. Rachel McKinnon, masters track champion and transgender athlete (VeloNews.com)
I’m sometimes misquoted as saying the performance advantage is irrelevant. It’s not, per se, that the advantage question is irrelevant. Its that the way that we think about human rights, in that legal and ethical standards of when it’s OK to override a person’s human right, is that the performance advantages aren’t high enough. If you look at elite athletics, every single elite athlete has some kind of genetic mutation that makes them amazing at their sport. Michael Phelps, his joint structure and body proportion, make him a like a fish, which is awesome. But we shouldn’t say that he has an unfair competitive advantage. The question is not whether there is a competitive advantage, the question is whether there is an unfair advantage. Sports is about competitive advantages. We have coaching and equipment and training, nutrition, rest all of these things are meant to produce competitive advantages over other people. Just because there is a competitive advantage doesn’t make it unfair.
Each national park has a unique soundscape. The natural and cultural sounds in parks awaken a sense of wonder that connects us to the qualities that define these special places. They are part of a web of resources that the National Park Service protects under the Organic Act. From the haunting calls of bugling elk in mountains to the patriotic calls of bugling horns across a historic battlefield, NPS invites you to experience our parks through this world of sound.
Dear Fuck-Up: How do you live when everything sucks?
Mental illness is a very much a matter of physiology and not one of will. Anyone who tells you to just try yoga or change your diet or think happier thoughts should have their teeth turn to ashes in their mouth. And I understand the importance of destigmatizing mental illness by rendering it within a medical framework. For too long we have viewed it as a moral indictment, to disastrous effect.
However, I also think this tends to throw a certain responsibility back onto those of us who struggle with it. Yes, my own personal brain chemistry is something I must reckon with, but doing so while navigating a cruel health care system, with the goal of remaining healthy enough to face a laughably uncertain financial future, all in service to surviving a world that is everywhere immiserating, hardly seems a good way to answer “how do I live.”
The best answer I’ve managed to come up with is that you live with intention of making that question easier for other people to answer. For me, the worst aspect of chronic depression (besides the boredom of it all) is the urge to be alone. If you’ve read my previous columns, you’ll notice that I almost always find a way to bring up our beholdenness to others. This is because I’m a lazy writer, but also because the fact of mutual obligation is what gives me the motivation to write at all. It’s also what animates any politics worth having.
AAFU: I wish I was closer with my brother (The Outline)
In any case, I think the way forward is by letting go of your guilt as much as possible, since nobody wants to feel that someone is reaching out to them out of a sense of obligation. You don’t need to begin with a weighty conversation about how terrible you feel, or how sorry you are. A simple “Hey I’m going to be in town next week want to get a drink?” is probably a good start. You can also gently encourage him to open up to you by… opening up to him. During the worst periods of my depression I often find it burdensome when caring, well-meaning people want to talk about me. All I do is lay in bed all day and think about my bad brain; a reprieve from that can be very welcome.
It’s also a nice thing to let someone know you trust them and value their judgment by asking them for advice. In all honesty, writing this column has done wonders for my own mental health. So consider confiding some of your own struggles to your smart, kind, and funny brother.
But however you decide to start, just start. There are countless barriers the world puts up between us — we work too much, and are burdened by financial stress, we receive a steady stream of just enough information to make it seem like we are in touch, the whole way we raise men, the fact that there is some idiot tweeting stupid shit we need to get mad about. I can’t stress enough how much the work of a life is in overcoming these. Close this dumb website and text your brother.
Brandy Jensen: Ask a Fuck-up: I don’t have any friends (The Outline)
Here is something that I rarely, if ever, disclose: I am often overwhelmed by a terrible, howling loneliness. Depression tends to flatten my experience of the world, and grief has lately made it sharp, but loneliness is the thing that really forecloses; it is the sense that whatever I am doing or feeling it will not be shared or understood, that I will be unknown.
It’s a hard thing to admit, and I’m very glad you wrote me about it. It’s strange the things we admit and those we don’t. Despite a general disposition toward vulnerability — on social media, at least, many of us are willing to freely say we’re depressed or anxious or want to die — we seem loathe to admit we are lonely. It feels like a personal failing — to admit we have trouble making friends, to bend toward care and be met with indifference. Besides, the message the world is constantly hammering out is that this is the era of connection! It’s so easy to stay in touch! If you are not constantly awash in the joy of companionship, well — that sounds like a you problem, right?
I think your problem is both simpler and more deeply entrenched. You are an adult in a time when the architecture of the world is designed to keep us separated from each other all while telling us we are ever-less alone.
I am both compelled by the idea of companionship and repulsed by the idea of not being able to just be completely and totally inert and do whatever the hell I want while sliding pickle spears into my face like a cartoon sawmill.
Leah Reich: Letter of Recommendation: Terro Liquid Ant Bait (NYT)
Ants are a problem that can’t be fixed in one go. Like anxiety, they will come and go and probably come again. The trick with both is to remember how you handled the situation last time. Rather than panicking, you must calmly walk through a set of practiced steps, even if they seem as if they’ll never work. They do, and they will — and that’s the only way out.
Our vision is to be the premier resource for Oregon’s African American culture and heritage information. We aspire to preserve this largely unknown and rich heritage and culture through collections and programs that promote scholarly research and public use. We envision becoming a center for study of Oregon’s African American life, heritage and culture.
Our goal is to secure a place and forum in which this heritage can be shared with the greater public. Oregon Black Pioneers Corporation’s mission, also doing business as Oregon African American Museum Project (OBP/OAAMP), is to research, recognize and commemorate the culture and heritage of African Americans in the State of Oregon.
Sam Duncan: A veteran and historian responds to Nate Powell’s “About Face” (Popula)
Powell’s ultimate conclusions regarding the malignancy of a “military style,” appropriated along hyper-masculine, hyper-nationalist, and highly commodified lines in American civil society, are correct. But Powell’s analysis erroneously refers to the same cultural zeitgeist to explain both military conventions, and the civilian appropriation of the “military style.” Treating both as manifestations of the same overarching culture effectively ignores the material concerns that distinguish the military’s appearance and design standards from the “future fascist paramilitary participants” Powell rightly warns us about.
There are many service members and veterans, myself included, who are uncomfortable with the various ways that civil society has been militarized, from the entanglements between sports and the military to the weapons of war found in American streets. Their voices are important in our discourse because they carry the weight of credibility. They are difficult to dismiss, especially for those who fetishize the military. Yet, criticisms of the “military style” that mischaracterize the military create a space for people to flippantly dismiss valid criticisms of militarization as just more political posturing, even when those criticisms come from military veterans.
Death and surrender to power in the clothing of men.
All of this—skulls, trucks, flags, guns—form the edges of a commodified, weaponized identity.
Those same political and market forces have successfully rebranded the American flag as both consumer product and cultural signifier. Merchandizing and uniformed services have considerably shifted associated symbolism away from a (debatable) neutrality toward a fully masculinized, militarized icon eager to make way for an authoritarian future. The breakdown governing its authorized use asserts that allegiance is above its own laws (and flag code). The incremental push remove color [from the flag] extends far beyond its obvious symbolic value. It’s no stretch to see how emphasis on rigidity and lack of depth helps reframe any spectrum as weakness: vibrancy, nuance, interpretation are signs of vulnerability.
Katie Shepherd: Portlanders Call 911 to Report “Unwanted” People More Than Any Other Reason. We Listened In. (Willamette Week)
Two changes could reduce the interactions police have with homeless people. The first is simple: Portlanders could call someone other than the cops. [...] Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, who took office in January, is looking at a second fix. She wants to change who the city sends to talk with people living on Portland's streets.
Laura Bliss: The Freeway Fight of the Century Is Coming to Portland (CityLab)
Widening highways is bad for property values in the short term—indeed, the construction of I-5 through Portland in the 1960s kicked out homeowners, depressed home values, and helped set the neighborhood up for decades of disinvestment. Over the longer term, however, there’s evidence that highway caps, just like any other “adaptive reuse” project (think: High Line), can and do help property values rise. In the absence of intentional policies to preserve affordable housing and opportunity—something that Portland has long failed to offer, though that may be slowly changing—there’s really nothing to guarantee that the “restoration” of Albina’s grid will serve the people who have lived there, and suffered the disconnecting presence of I-5, the longest. And that’s on top of the environmental harm that more lanes and more cars are likely to bring.
If Portland wants to reconnect neighborhood grids and provide transit and biking infrastructure, why not just do that? Rather than pour half a billion dollars (a cost that is all but sure to rise) into what is, at the end of the day, a wider freeway, the city and state might first try taming traffic with tolls or congestion fees, as New York City is again contemplating. That’s a solution that might help Portland live up to its ultra-progressive reputation. Finally.
Matt Novak: Oregon Was Founded As a Racist Utopia (Gizmodo)
When Oregon was granted statehood in 1859, it was the only state in the Union admitted with a constitution that forbade black people from living, working, or owning property there. It was illegal for black people even to move to the state until 1926. Oregon’s founding is part of the forgotten history of racism in the American west.
They are hoarding knowledge and blocking preservation.
At some point, the investors who dumped a quarter billion dollars into it will want a return on that investment. Last year, founder Adam D’Angelo indicated they expect to eventually IPO. But market conditions, combined with the results of their ad platform, may force them in different directions — a pivot, merger, or acquisition are always a possibility.
When Quora shuts down, and it will eventually shut down one day, all of that collected knowledge will be lost unless they change their isolationist ethos.