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Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Semester of Language

Several weeks ago, I had dinner with a friend who's a professor of literature and philosophy at a nearby university. We were discussing the teaching of grammar and, in particular, the difficulty students face when trying to understand grammatical rules (e.g. "never split an infinitive") that seem (and sometimes are) arbitrary. He tells his students that demonstrating a command of grammar is like wearing a tie: a tie serves no utilitarian function, yet in certain situations people expect you to wear one, and if you don't, they will look down on you. The same is true regarding the words you speak and write; you can often communicate effectively without following grammatical conventions, but some people will ignore you before you finish your first sentence. Of course, beyond impressing others, there are many good reasons to teach and to learn grammar—as well as to use it precisely. Still, his analogy rings true.

This term, I spent a lot of time thinking about language. In November and earlier this month, I had the joy of participating in a two-day seminar on the English language offered by Princeton University's Teachers as Scholars program. The seminar brought together 30 or so educators from across central New Jersey to learn from Professor Joshua Katz, a linguistic polymath whose wit and energy matched his knowledge. Together, we examined English synchronically, considering, for example, varieties in contemporary spelling, pronunciation, and syntax. And we studied English diachronically, using an Indo-European dictionary and texts from Old and Middle English in order to understand how English has evolved.

Today, I was reminded of my conversation with my friend and of the seminar when I read a review of three books on the history of English in the Financial Times. Here's how the review begins:
Employers have told David Crystal that if they receive a job application with a spelling mistake, it goes straight in the bin. I am not sure I believe that. Who throws anything, apart from food wrappers and empty coffee cups, in the bin these days? I imagine the misspelling applicants get an email saying “We are afraid your application has been unsuccessful” and never discover why.

Misspelling is not a modern malady. In Spell it Out, Crystal reproduces a 1910 cartoon from Punch magazine in which a boss berates his secretary for typing "income" as "incum". "Good Heavens!" exclaims the secretary. "How did I come to leave out the 'b'?" And in 1750 Lord Chesterfield, the statesman, advising his son to brush up on his spelling, warned: "I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled 'wholesome' without the 'w'."

You would not get either "incum" or "holesome" today. As soon as I typed them, Microsoft Word inserted wavy red lines beneath telling me I had made a mistake. But, as Crystal points out, electronic spellcheckers are less helpful when you misspell a word in such a way as to spell another, as in a poem by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar:
I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Why, for centuries, have people struggled to spell? Because English spelling is horribly hard. It is not just that we have "for" and "four", "stake", "steak" and "mistake". We also have "peak", "peek" and "pique". "Horrid" has a double consonant in the middle, "timid" a single one. "Prefer" has one "f", "proffer" two.
The review continues and is well worth the read, as is an article from the most recent edition of The New Yorker about Ithkuil, an artificial language designed to be more precise and concise than any natural language. I look forward to sharing these articles with students when we next examine the function and development of language.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Presentation on the 2012 Presidential Election

Several weeks ago, the Head of my school asked me to address the entire school community on the topic of the 2012 Presidential Election, to share some non-partisan insights accessible to 6th graders and engaging for 12th graders—all in 12 minutes or less. While crafting my presentation, I decided to offer students a brief primer on the types of issues the candidates are debating and on the principles that underlie the candidates' positions. More importantly, I encouraged students to ask two questions over and over again when studying the election; these questions reflect the open-minded approach I hope they take when engaged in the hard work of becoming informed citizens.

I delivered the presentation this past Thursday, and below are my remarks. I refer to images and charts, which appeared on slides behind me, but do not, in general, appear here.



Good morning.

Consider, for a moment, the images we’ve seen over the past few years that speak to the desire of peoples around to be free. In 2009, students in Iran took to the streets to demand free elections; state police quickly suppressed them. In 2010, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace prize for his efforts to end one-party rule in China. He wasn’t able to receive the prize—this was the chair he would have occupied during the awards ceremony—as he remains in a Chinese prison. And in 2011, protests in Egypt led to the ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak and, perhaps, to the emergence of a democracy there.

Indeed, in most of the world, people cannot freely choose their leaders. Billions live without the ability to learn about democratic rights, let alone exercise them. Of course, such is not the case here in the United States, where we have a vibrant democracy; and politics—especially Presidential politics—are a national pastime. It is in light of our good fortune, then, that this morning I’d like to talk with you about this year’s Presidential election—a topic about which we here at Newark Academy are wonderfully passionate, as the IB Theater class’s presentation several weeks ago demonstrated.

You already know the basics: On Tuesday, November 6th, Americans will head to the polls in cities and towns across the nation and cast their ballots for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. If the election proceeds smoothly, we should know by the following morning who will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, that is, who will serve as head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.

If you’ve watched the debates, you are well aware of the major issues in this year’s election—jobs, health care, immigration, the Middle East, social security, taxes, and so many more. To help you think about these issues, you might consider how they fall into three common categories: economic, social, and foreign policy. Economic issues are those that relate to the revenues and expenditures of the Federal government as well as to jobs and the regulation of businesses. Social issues are those that relate to the personal lives of citizens and to their interactions with each other, including laws regulating abortion and marriage. Foreign policy issues relate to how the US defends itself and interacts with other nations.

Let’s now take a look at a few of the principles that tend to underlie the positions that Obama and Romney hold in these three areas. I also want to highlight some of the principles they hold in common.

On economic issues, both candidates value the importance of a robust market economy wherein individuals are able to support and better themselves and their families. Obama tends to favor more regulation of economic activity in the interest of protecting workers and the environment, while Romney tends to favor less regulation of economic activity in the interest of economic growth and job creation.

On social issues, both candidates value protecting citizens’ civil rights and ensuring that all children have access to good schools. Obama tends to champion a more active government that directly supports the needs of the citizenry, while Romney tends to champion a smaller government that allows the citizenry to act without as much support or restraint.

On foreign policy issues, both candidates value the role that America plays in the world community and seek to employ the tools of foreign policy in the interest of peace and national security. Obama tends to favor negotiation with other nations and cooperation with international bodies such as the United Nations, while Romney tends to favor international action in which the United States takes a leadership role in defending American interests abroad.

These charts, of course, are oversimplifications. Each candidate holds many more principles than I could share this morning. And both candidates have complex positions that do not always flow from these principles. Additionally, both candidates subscribe to still other principles that I did not mention—for example, principles that relate to their interpretations of the US Constitution and, thus, to the types of people they might appoint to the Supreme Court.

To truly understand which candidate shares your principles and will pursue the policies you favor, you will need to continue to engage in the hard work of becoming an informed citizen. To do this, you might study the candidates’ platforms, view their debates, and look into their backgrounds and characters. And as you read, watch, and listen, I encourage you to ask yourself two questions over and over again.

The first is this: What are the best arguments in favor of the position with which I currently disagree? This question might, at first, seem counter-intuitive? Why, you might wonder, should you spend time looking for and considering the best arguments of your opponents?

My answer is simple: We may have a lot to learn from those with whom we disagree. Our political culture encourages us to reduce complex issues to “sound bites,” to maximize differences between candidates rather than to identify shared values. As a result of this, we miss opportunities to discover the complexity in issues and the importance of multiple perspectives in developing solutions. Asking ourselves to consider the best arguments from those with whom we disagree forces us to confront, and perhaps to learn from, a plurality of ideas.

As you know, many good, smart people on both sides of the political aisle have compelling arguments in defense of their principles and the policies that flow from them. Yes, people do disagree on the proper role of the Federal government in the lives of the nation’s citizens and on the proper role of the United States in the world today. But it would be unwise to dismiss the ideas of those who disagree with us—be they Liberals or Conservatives—because we are too proud or simply disinclined.

The second question is this: How does the presentation of an idea influence my opinion of it?

To illustrate how the presentation of an idea can shape one’s opinion, I’d like to share two 30-second advertisements from this year’s election, both on the topic of the economy. The commercials demonstrate how campaigns manipulate the presentation of information to persuade the viewer.

The first commercial was produced by the Obama campaign:


And the second commercial was produced by the Romney campaign:


As you likely noticed, in Obama’s ad, the natural frequency and reverberation of Romney’s voice are changed so that he sounds hollow. And in Romney’s ad, ominous music plays as the viewer is confronted with facts and video designed to make the President appear out of touch.

Viewing campaign commercials back-to-back, as we just did, magnifies the types of manipulations commonly used in political advertisements. Oftentimes in political discourse, however, persuasive language is used much more subtly. Consider, for example, the chart I displayed earlier. You may have noticed that I wrote that Obama tends to champion an “active” government and Romney a “smaller” government. I used those words because, I believe, they cast each candidate’s position in its best light. Instead of “active” had I written “inefficient” to describe Obama’s vision, I would have negatively skewed your opinion of it. And instead of “smaller” had I written “uncaring” to describe Romney’s vision, I would have done the same.

By being aware of how we and others—candidates, commentators, experts, and even friends—use language when talking about political issues, we can recognize emotional appeals and linguistic obfuscations. And, as a result, we can focus on ideas and issues.

Finally, before I finish my presentation, I’d like to share two important details to keep in mind as you study the election.

First, remember that the President is elected not by the majority of voters but instead by the Electoral College—a body of 538 individuals, or electors, who represent the states and who formally chose the President and Vice-President. Here’s a map that shows the number of electors each state chooses. As you can see, populous states, like Texas and California, choose more electors than states with smaller populations, like Vermont or North Dakota.

This is all pretty straightforward. What’s interesting about the Electoral College, however, is that in all but two states the candidate who receives the majority of the votes in a state will win all of that state’s Electoral votes. For example, if Obama receives 51% of the votes in Florida and Romney receives 49%, Obama will win all of Florida’s 29 Electoral votes. States in which the race is close are called swing states, as winning them can easily “swing” an election. You see, a candidate needs 270 Electoral Votes in order to win the contest; winning Florida, then, would provide a candidate with more than 10% of the Electoral Votes needed to become President. That’s why you hear a lot about Florida and other swing states in the news; and it’s why neither Obama nor Romney have come through New Jersey recently. Polls predict that Obama will receive a majority of the votes in New Jersey, and thus gain all 14 of our state’s Electoral votes. New Jersey isn’t a swing state, and, as a result, it’s of little interest to the candidates.

The second detail is a bit simpler: We spend a lot of our time and energy talking about the Presidential election, but the President is only one part of the Federal government. Moreover, the Presidential race is only one of thousands of races that will be decided in November. In addition to the Presidential election, Americans will determine who will fill 33 of 100 seats in the US Senate and all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives. Additionally, thousands of races for positions on state and local legislatures, councils, and boards will be decided. Simply put, the outcome of the Presidential election matters a lot, but it’s hardly the only political game in town; for many of us, the outcome of local and state elections will have a greater impact on our daily lives than the outcome of the Presidential race.


To conclude: As you continue to study the election in your Humanities classes and learn from friends, parents, the news media, and the candidates themselves, I hope you find the ideas I’ve shared this morning useful—particularly the questions I encourage you to ask yourself this election season:
What are the best arguments in favor of the position with which I currently disagree? and
How does the presentation of an idea influence my opinion of it?

If you are eligible to vote—as some of you seniors are—please exercise your right. And even if you aren’t eligible to vote just yet, you should feel awfully lucky that you reside in a country in which, thanks to the efforts of generations past, you can speak freely, debate openly, and, ultimately, join with your fellow citizens to create your future together.

Thank you.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Thinking Logarithmically

One of my students recently pointed me to an article about a newly published study on a cognitive trait I had never before considered—the scale we employ to represent and store sense perception data. The article begins thus:
Ask adults from the industrialized world what number is halfway between 1 and 9, and most will say 5. But pose the same question to small children, or people living in some traditional societies, and they're likely to answer 3.

Cognitive scientists theorize that that's because it's actually more natural for humans to think logarithmically than linearly: 30 is 1, and 32 is 9, so logarithmically, the number halfway between them is 31, or 3. Neural circuits seem to bear out that theory. For instance, psychological experiments suggest that multiplying the intensity of some sensory stimuli causes a linear increase in perceived intensity.
The MIT researchers who conducted the study suggest an evolutionary basis for our tendency to employ a logarithmic scale when storing sensory data. I wonder how this study might inform the design of instruments that traditionally rely on arithmetic scales (e.g. scales in social science questionnaires). Should social science instrument designers employ logarithmic scales instead?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Body Language

The Spring 2012 edition of Lapham's Quarterly, themed "Means of Communication," includes an article on body language. The author offers an introduction to various approaches to the study of body language and includes many anecdotes about what these studies have revealed. A favorite excerpt:
The greater the burden of communication gestures have to carry, the more languagelike they become. But if we already have a full language to communicate, then why do we gesture? Clearly it’s useful for cases where we can’t or don’t want to speak. With gestures, baseball players exchange secrets on the open field, stock traders make deals in the noisy hubbub of the pit, scuba divers communicate through the barrier of water, and drivers make their frustration known to other drivers through the barrier of car windows.

These special cases don’t represent the bulk of gesturing we do. Most of our gestures happen while we can speak or are speaking. But the act of using language is ephemeral; words disappear as they are spoken. Of course, we’ve had the ability to preserve the words of the past ever since the invention of writing. But the solid, linear permanence of written language encourages the illusion that language is just an object, a container for thought. In fact, language is also a behavior, a laboratory for thought creation and negotiation. Gestures are thoughts, ideas, speech acts made tangible in the air....
Anyone who works with young adults on a regular basis knows how important gestures are; adolescents pay close attention to the body language of their peers and of adults. Although educators most often focus on helping students develop their written and spoken language skills, body language serves as a substantial and important means of communication.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Three Umpires... on the nature of reality

A powerful anecdote which explores the nature of reality from an article on adult leadership by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey:
Three umpires, so the story goes, were discussing their view of their work. "Some're balls and some're strikes," the first umpire said, "and I calls 'em as I sees 'em." "Some're balls and some're strikes," the second one said, "and I calls 'em as they are." "Well, some're balls, all right," the third umpire said, "and, sure, some're strikes. But until I calls 'em, they ain't nothin'."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another Emotionally Intelligent Sign

While visiting Enjou Chocolat, a boutique confectioner in Morristown, NJ, I came across this emotionally intelligent sign, a brilliantly expressed reminder to customers nearing the store's scale:


Friday, May 25, 2012

How Reliable Are the Social Sciences?

Earlier this month, philosophy professor Gary Cutting authored a column on the New York Times Opinionator blog that made several bold claims about the predictive value of social science research:
Social sciences may be surrounded by the “paraphernalia” of the natural sciences, such as technical terminology, mathematical equations, empirical data and even carefully designed experiments.  But when it comes to generating reliable scientific knowledge, there is nothing more important than frequent and detailed predictions of future events.  We may have a theory that explains all the known data, but that may be just the result of our having fitted the theory to that data.  The strongest support for a theory comes from its ability to correctly predict data that it was not designed to explain.

While the physical sciences produce many detailed and precise predictions, the social sciences do not.  The reason is that such predictions almost always require randomized controlled experiments, which are seldom possible when people are involved.  For one thing, we are too complex: our behavior depends on an enormous number of tightly interconnected variables that are extraordinarily difficult to  distinguish and study separately.   Also, moral considerations forbid manipulating humans the way we do inanimate objects.   As a result, most social science research falls far short of the natural sciences’ standard of controlled experiments.
Cutting ultimately argues that the findings of social science research should not serve as the primary basis of public policy. "At best," he writes, "they can supplement the general knowledge, practical experience, good sense and critical intelligence that we can only hope our political leaders will have."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Do Linguistic Rules Rule?

A colleague pointed me to this recent column in the New York Times about a central tension in the evolution of language—one that pits linguistic traditionalists, of the never-split-an-infinitive variety, against linguistic revisionists, who don't think twice about the grammatical rules ignored in most tweets. The author, philosophy professor Gary Gutting, describes how we must both respect linguistic rules and accept that they will change over time.

He writes:
[L]anguage is both our creation and our master. We humans invented and continue to reinvent our language to meet various needs, but language can serve these needs only if, at any given time, we conform to most of what has been already devised.  Therefore, although we as an evolving species make language, it is also imposed on each of us individually.  There’s a sense in which we speak language and a sense in which, in Mallarm√©’s famous phrase, “language itself speaks."
He concludes with some questions that lend themselves to further discussion:
Language usage is and should be a battleground.  Our task is to make the conflict fruitful.  To do this, we need to understand what precisely is at issue in any particular dispute.  Does a new locution advance or retard our power to express our ideas effectively?  Is the issue primarily one of different aesthetic sensibilities?  Or is our argument over language rooted in deeper disagreements over who we are and how we should live?  Once we understand what is really at stake, we may be able to learn much through arguing about language.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Beginning Emotion

Before spring break, my Theory of Knowledge students began their study of Emotion as a Way of Knowing, the penultimate unit in the first year of TOK. They began by considering why the statement "You're being emotional" is often taken as a criticism. This simple prompt—created, I must note, by Richard van de Lagemaat—led to a rich introductory discussion of the nature and function of emotion. I then presented Ekman's original six universal emotions and a chart which detailed the range of intensity of a variety of emotions. After break, as we continue our investigation into Emotion, I plan on sharing this recent post on the intensity of regret by Dan Ariely, in which he presents two stories—one about missing a flight and another about a man who nearly won the lottery—that reveal some of the complexities of regret. As the unit unfolds, I will share additional activities and resources here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Can we define art?

Several times a year, my students engage in arguments about the definition of art. Some contend, for example, that art must be aesthetically pleasing, or that untouched nature cannot be art, or that anything at all can be art. Time Warp host Jeff Lieberman recently spoke at our school, igniting the debate once again. Lieberman has created beautiful works of art (in my opinion!) by using high-speed cameras and other technologies to expose beauty in the natural world.

In order to give students a framework for thinking about the definition of art, I usually present this simple diagram. It contains elements that, to some degree or another, many consider important in defining whether, or not, a stimulus is, or is not, art:
 
This diagram satisfies my students for a bit, but they usually want more. Yet even as we investigate how philosophers and artistic authorities have defined art, some remain frustrated. Perhaps the next time this discussion arises, I'll share with them this recent post by philosophy professor Mike LaBossiere. In it, LaBossiere asks, Are Definitions of “Art” Stupid? His response is decidedly "no," and he goes on to provide a number of reasons why we, as a society, need to define art:
First, society and individuals expend money and other resources on art-so it is important to know whether the resources are being expended for real art or whether they are being wasted on pseudo-art....

Second, classifying something as art and the creator as an artist gives them both a certain status....

Third, and finally, artists and critics need to know the difference in order to create and judge art-otherwise they would not know what they are doing.
I don't find his reasons particularly compelling, philosophically. Perhaps my students might have some ideas to add the next time this discussion arises.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

On the International Date Line

Last week, I read an article about time zones on The Smart Set (via ALDaily) that chronicled the government of Samoa's decision to switch time zones by moving west over the international date line, thus losing a day in December 2011. The article speaks to the fluidity in how humans arrange time. China, for example, has had only one time zone since 1949, while Russia, which had eleven until 2010, has nine. The Boston Globe's Brainiac blog also recently profiled the article, and the Globe piece included a map of the international dateline:

 

The international date line is a fascinating construct, and a close examination of the map makes clear how time zones reflect politics, language, and history.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

New Study on Linguistic Determinism

A recent study has reignited the longstanding debate over linguistic determinism. A paper by Yale Professor M. Keith Chen, profiled recently on Big Think, suggests that the language we speak dramatically impacts many of our behaviors, including savings rates, diets, and smoking habits. By correlating future-oriented behaviors (e.g. saving, exercising) with language, Chen found that people who speak languages that include strong grammatical distinctions between past and present—what he called strong future-time-reference, or FTR, languages—exhibit fewer future-oriented behaviors than those who speak weak-FTR languages:
His results are rather mind-boggling: In Europe, speakers of weak-FTR languages (German, Finnish and Estonian are examples) were 30 percent more likely to have saved money in a given year than were equivalent speakers of a strong-FTR language (English, Spanish or Greek, for instance). (To put that in perspective, according to Chen's analysis, speaking a strong-FTR language is as a big a risk-factor for not-saving as unemployment.) Weak-FTR language-speakers have piled up an average of 170,000 more euros per person for their retirement than  strong-FTR speakers, and are 24 percent less likely to have smoked heavily, 29 percent more likely to exercise regularly, and 13 percent less likely to be obese. The weak-FTR speakers even had stronger grips and great lung capacity than did those whose grammar forced them to mark the difference between today and tomorrow. National records reflect individual habits too, Chen writes: "Countries with weak-FTR languages save on average six percent more of their GDP per year than their strong-FTR counterparts."
Syntax, it appears, may be destiny, at least in Europe. Not surprisingly, the anti-Whorfians have already cast doubts on Chen's findings.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Relaxation and Creative Problem Solving

A recent post by Sam McNerney on TheCreativityPost reminds us that we often come up with our best ideas when we have stepped away from a project, when we are relaxing. McNerney profiles a number of recent articles that support the idea that intense focus and creative output do not always go hand in hand. The value of time off task is particularly important to me when writing. I find that my most powerful thoughts come to me when I am walking, cooking, or driving—activities that require little cognitive effort. And since I'm writing this post at the end of a three-day weekend, I can attest to the value of downtime.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wikipedia and Truth

Are Wikipedia entries truthful? In a recent article in The Chronicle Review, Timothy Messer-Kruse, history professor, asks this question and explains how the site's rules about data verifiability have trumped his desire to correct an inaccurate statement. An expert on the Haymarket affair, Messer-Kruse attempted, over the course of many years, to correct, on the Haymarket affair page, a detail that his research revealed was a common misconception about the trial. Wikipedia's army of volunteer editors stymied his efforts, time and again:
I tried to edit the page again. Within 10 seconds I was informed that my citations to the primary documents were insufficient, as Wikipedia requires its contributors to rely on secondary sources, or, as my critic informed me, "published books." Another editor cheerfully tutored me in what this means: "Wikipedia is not 'truth,' Wikipedia is 'verifiability' of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that."
Although the issue at hand in this story is rather small, the case reflects a tension inherent in the democratization of historical authority.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More on Art and Athenticity

Late last year, I blogged about a study that suggested that people find more pleasure in viewing a work of art when they are told they are looking at an original painting rather than a fake. In response to this study, philosophy graduate student Erich Matthes recently posed an interesting question: "Is our interest in authentic things justified, or do we merely possess an inherent bias in favor of the supposed Real McCoy?"

Matthes response is worth reading in its entirety, but here a few of his key points:
[W]hether or not something is authentic in the nominal sense depends on the context of assessment: while a Van Meegeren is not an authentic Vermeer, it is, of course, an authentic Van Meegeren. Thus whether the nominal authenticity of a work grants it any special value, and hence whether it is resistant to replacement, depends on a need to articulate a context of evaluative assessment. The fact that a given Van Meegeren is an inauthentic Vermeer only has evaluative relevance if we are assessing the value of the painting as a Vermeer. Absent this context, noting that the Van Meegeren is an inauthentic Vemeer is akin to noting that a painted horse is an inauthentic zebra: it is true that they are different animals, but outside a specified evaluative context, it is unclear why this fact should matter. In historical contexts, it cannot merely be the fact that an object embodies a particular history that blocks its substitutability: after all, everything has a particular history. There is consequently some sense in which all things are resistant to replacement, but it is not obvious that there is anything significant about that.

As straightforward as this point might seem, it is essential to how we should assess the value of authentic objects. As the Oxford study suggests (and experience corroborates), people are quick to increase their valuation of a given object based on an attribution of authenticity. But the mere fact that an object is authentic should not be where the evaluative buck stops—rather, it should be where evaluative reflection begins. If not, we risk an unacceptable proliferation of objects that we believe are resistant to replacement, which can serve to erode the importance of objects that truly possess this feature. The question we must ask ourselves when confronted with an object that we initially take to be resistant to replacement is whether that object is valuable in a distinctive way. This is what renders an object resistant to replacement. In contrast, if my umbrella is stolen, a replacement is precisely what I want, and inconveniences aside, I feel no regret about this. The bulk of umbrellas are all valuable in the same way, and thus they are perfectly interchangeable.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Emotionally Intelligent Fine Print

More emotionally intelligent signage—a gentle nudge in fine print on the bottom of a Starbucks pastry bag: