What is College For? A View from the Clouds

Cambridge, naturally

“What Is College For?” Notre Dame philosophy professor Gary Gutting recently asked, in the NYT.  Answer:  basically, it’s for ideas.

Gutting’s article was interesting to me as perhaps one of the purest examples of “Ivory Tower” thinking I’ve ever seen.  Interesting, perhaps disturbing, and finally unconvincing.

His evidence for the value of college to students is… self-reported student findings that, e.g., college was “very useful in helping them grow intellectually.” Of course, almost anything that a person might do between the ages of 18 and 22 could be useful in helping them grow intellectually — talk to anyone who’s travelled abroad, gone to work in their uncle’s business, or done national service –  and it’s hardly surprising that after years of being told that this is the purpose of their family’s huge investment, students tend to report back the observation.

His thesis is that “the raison d’être of a college is to nourish a world of intellectual culture; that is, a world of ideas, dedicated to what we can know scientifically, understand humanistically, or express artistically.”

Well, that’s interesting.  According to whom, or what?  He cites no previous thinker, no historical evidence, no particular cognizance of the history of education even.  Then, he makes the amazing claim that “this world [of intellectual culture]  “is mainly populated by members of college faculties: scientists, humanists, social scientists…and those who study the fine arts.” This is so fact-free as to be hardly worth rebutting.  What about the majority of scientists, who work for governments, pure research institutes, in health/medicine, or in industry?  Or the entire media world, which is primarily non-academic?  Technology, a radical transformative force in matters intellectual and otherwise, and mostly a non-academic phenonomen, is likewise written off.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/blogs_v3/opinionator/pogs/thestone75.gif

Even accepting Gutting’s claim, you wouldn’t know from his remarks that there is a vigorous and useful debate going on about how you might detect and measure this “intellectual culture” impact of academia.  Does Gutting think that the citizens and governments of the world are going to keep forking over trillions just on the strength of an airy claim?  I’d hope not, and I’d hope that he’d hope not, if he believes in critical inquiry.

In the UK, the Higher Education Funding Council’s proposed 2009 Research Excellence Framework (REF) sparked extensive debate about impact of research, a useful compendium of which debate is gathered at “The Danger of Assessing Research by Economic Impact” by Prof. Leslie Ann Goldberg of Univ. Liverpool, Computer Science.

In the US, a narrower but lively debate has recently attended the work of Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and affiliate of the DC-based Center for College Affordability and Productivity.  Based on analysis of research activity in four mid-ranked US English departments, he argues that humanities “research” consumes a large portion of department resources while producing hardly any measurable impact, e.g. in citations of the research work.  See “The Research Bust”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec 4, 2011.

Personally, I think the crucial larger story there is the increasingly threatened and shifting alliance between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and non-STEM disciplines.  While we still hear the ideal, exemplified by Gutting’s article, of the unified truth-seeking academy, in practice the pact has been crumbling for decades.  It is fairly obvious that the research system of the STEM disciplines works differently than that of the humanities, being based on (or aspiring to, at least) distinct principles of falsifiable hypotheses and reproducible results, with clear pathways to technological application of discoveries.  (or at least, aspires to these principles: see “Scientists’ Elusive Goal: Reproducing Study Results.” Wall Street Journal, Dec 2, 2011, on recent interesting results on widespread non-reproducibility).

The social sciences partake of this scientific/technical framework to a degree, and also have their distinct own realm of engagement in studying/shaping social policy;  professional study such as law has, of course, its own self-evident rationale.

activity map of "humanities computing" from DigitalHumanities.org

That leaves the humanities, uneasily adrift between the truth metrics and justifications more solidly occupied by other disciplines.  (with the upstart “digital humanities” energetically embracing science/technology methods, but not necessarily harbored with solid metrics or  justifications.  Also, often eschewing affiliation with the traditional humanities disciplines, as shown in this chart of the “extra-academic professions,” or what DH leading light Bethany Nowviskie @nowviskie of the University of Virginia calls “alt-academics”).

Yet, this complicated landscape is either outside or beneath the notice of Gutting’s “What is College For?”, which doesn’t present an argument, really.  I would hardly even call it an ideal, because an ideal would be philosophically consistent and encompassing, rather than being parochially tied to a particular institution such as contemporary higher-ed.  No, I would say Gutting’s view, at least as expressed in this article, is closer to mere ideology:  that is, a set of beliefs constructed (consciously or not) by a group in order to promote and self-explain its socio-economic position.  That’s fine, as far as it goes, but I don’t think it very effectively describes or defends higher education, or much exemplifies either philosophy or intellectual culture.

Fact-checking: a battle for hearts and minds

I look at the “fact checking” movement and recent partisan / political disputes over it, and suggest a need to go beyond principles of objectivity, and to embrace political strategy, learning theory, and empirical evidence about how to have impact.  As recently commented by political organizer Biko Biker, the first rule of effectiveness is:  meet people where they are.

http://s3.amazonaws.com/37assets/svn/271-politifact.pngIt’s been a not-so-quiet few weeks in Lake Wobegon — the world of journalistic fact-checking, that is: the practice of examining news stories, politicians’ statements, etc., for factual accuracy.  It’s familiar to many from the syndicated newspaper columns of Politifact, launched in 2007 (their Web site shown at left).  It’s also done by other organizations such as AIM and FAIR, and TV news programs, and is joined by many related Web projects such as Hypothes.is, a proposed “peer review layer for the Internet,” and “Truth Goggles” from Dan Schultz at MIT.

CoverThe other week a major shot across the bow was fired by conservative magazine The Weekly Standard‘s with its cover story,  “Lies, Damned Lies, and ‘Fact Checking’: The liberal media’s latest attempt to control the discourse” by Mark Hemingway.  The title sums it up quite well, but basically Hemingway reviews the rise of fact-checking, rips apart a few choice Politifact and Associated Press fact-check pieces, and observes an overall liberal-Democratic agenda in the enterprise.

Over at NYU School of Journalism, however, wizened sage Jay Rosen had long seen it coming:

Conversation ensued, around Rosen’s much-followed Twitter feed, including a followup from John McQuaid at Forbes: “How to Fix Fact Checking.” McQuaid argues that the Standard legitimately pointed out some definitely sloppy, biased Politifact and AP fact-checking, but the answer is just to do the job right:

[The Weekly Standard‘s piece] is basically an argument for endless epistemological war….In this scenario, nobody will ever know the “truth” because it cannot meaningfully exist until one side has defeated the other….
“The problem is that fact-checking – like everything – is sometimes a lazy, half-assed business. If fact-checking is as important as it claims, its practitioners need to acknowledge its problems and fix them.”

“Fix the problems,” McQuaid explains, means: “hard-nosed reporting and independent evaluation.”

Along similar lines, my friend Alec Macgillis writing in the The New Republic argues that  “fact-checkers wouldn’t be needed if all of us journalists were more able, willing and empowered to do our jobs: to vet and explain political claims as they were being made.” I can’t help but feel this is essentially nostalgic:  wishing for a day when there was (if there ever was) an ample supply of well-trained, well-resourced, well-respected professional reporters to give every topic its thorough, balanced, due.  Here, I would have to to agree with Clay Shirky’s recent volley in the CJR “future of journalism” fray,  “Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis” and say that this just isn’t a choice any more, that such a system is economically and technologically and politically past tense.

Even if there were an economic climate to support such a professional journalistic cadre deployed on every story, I think that today, it wouldn’t even assure success.

Why?  Because man is a political animal, ours is a political world, and journalistic fact-checking must, like it or not, have a political strategy if it is to escape political neutralization.

So I claim.

Madison, Wisconsin, 2011 protests

This does not mean that fact-checking must have a political position. Rather, I think that proponents of fact-checking must recognize that if you want to influence public opinion, you have to prosecute the cause through the mechanisms of public opinion, and this IS fighting the good fight.  Taking refuge in high principles of neutrality and independence may be dignified, but if it’s ineffectual, if you lose the war, it’s cold comfort.  To be fair, fact-checking projects are doing much to increase their appeal and effectiveness, e.g. the humor of Politifact’s “pants on fire!” negative rating, or annual “worst liars” awards. But I’m not sure that many partisan boundaries are yet being crossed.

Do Politifact columns disproportionately critique Republicans?  Perhaps your objective method objectively found greater incidence of falsehoods in Republican speeches, according to rigorous truth goggles software or peer review.  It doesn’t really matter. If prevailing media, and most of the audience, might easily dismiss you by the fact that Politifact gives more lower grades to Republicans, say, then figure out a new angle that will be more effective in the war.  Even patterns of who reads and cites your findings can be used as evidence of bias. [3].  Protesting your objectivity may do nothing to reach the unconverted.

A model for analyzing fact-checking projects — for impact, interaction, and topical foci — was recently shown by John Kelly of Morningside Analytics.  His research, summarized by Ethan Zuckerman, shows that fact-checking sites differ significantly in what communities they reach, and how much they reach into different political territory.  See also his fascinating visualization of the blog network Global Voices Online, with auto-classification of sources by topic focus, dot size to represent traffic volume, and graph of linking patterns between sites.

This is intriguing, but we might go a step further, and investigate how much fact-check information actually affects, or might affect, people’s understanding.  Here we could look to cognitive science and learning theory’s findings/methods regarding how people revise/improve their understandings. These approaches might be entirely counter-intuitive, from the standpoint of traditional journalistic: e.g. might suggest giving less information or fewer source choices; or creating certain types of temporary confusion or dissonance or “meaning threat” (see Psychological Science paper PDF, or summary).  Personally, I have a hunch that the greatest hope for building media that will change minds lies in personalized media, e.g. that would look for deficits in your reading matter / social graph and try to address them.  There is some interesting research showing that many, if not necessarily a majority, of news readers actually express interest in and report higher satisfaction with such “balancing news,” but more on this point in later installments.

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A play-book for fact-checking

I think it’s virtually impossible to depoliticize political media with pure fact-checking. The treachery of politics and public opinion will relentlessly undermine a too-idealistic enterprise, and merely presenting critiques doesn’t necessarily reach people or change their minds.

So, I’m starting a fact-checking play book. It embraces and extends what Rosen, McQuaid, and other experts have said:

  1. Don’t be sloppy, in any way, ever. It’s fatal.
  2. Continual self- and process examination. Never trust trust (see note #1 below).
  3. Realize that it’s not just about “facts”, it’s also about narratives and mythic/cognitive frames.  One’s framing concepts of “factual” or “truthful” may not be the same as everyone’s.  That doesn’t mean there is no objective reality, just that people understand reality through quite different frames, and you must think about how to communicate through those frames.
  4. “Meet people where they are.”
    Fulfilling our own ideals and impressing people who think like us is seductive but insufficient. Perhaps focus might be shifted towards hard evidence of how much we are changing minds and crossing partisan / concept-cluster boundaries.  For example, a) quantitative media analysis such as that cited by John Kelly, or b) cognitive science, learning theory, and personalization.
  5. Accept that it’s a political project, even if, ironically, the point is to get “truth” out from under the politics.  Ultimately, we’re not above it, and that’s ok.  That’s our world.

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NOTES

1. I originally titled this post “Reflections on Fact-checking and Depoliticizing Politics”, alluding to a famous 1984 computer science paper, “Reflections on Trusting Trust,” by Ken Thompson.  He demonstrates how even a simple computer program can be almost indetectably hiding a fatal bug, because a truly devious attacker can invisibly embed the bug or attack into the very tools used by the programmer.  See the  Wikipedia summary or the original paper. Ultimately, he suggests, security is a social process, of understanding and assessing the trust-worthiness of every party and tool you interact with, including yourself.

2. Overview of fact-checking.  A history of the practice is under way by Lucas Graves, journalist and PhD student at Columbia.

3. Citation as evidence of bias.
What if some fact-check source is cited more often by liberal/Democratic members of Congress than by conservatives?  Then it might easily be proved to be liberally biased, according to the methodology of the best-known scholar of news bias, UCLA’s Tim Groseclose, as explicated in the leading peer-reviewed journal Quarterly of Economics (PDF).

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Agree?  Missed something? Please send comments, suggestions to me at tim (at) tjm.org, or post on Twitter mentioning @mccormicktim, or comment on Facebook.

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US Public High Schools Dominate Siemens Westinghouse Science Competition

Elite Public High Schoolers, Predominantly Asian-American, sweep Siemens / Westinghouse Prizes

To survey the high schools of the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science, & Technology winners (descendent of the former Westinghouse Science Talent Search) is to see American secondary, public education at its impressive peak.  Polished web sites burst with notices of state champion teams, “Top Schools in Nation” awards from various publications, and arrays of courseware / e-learning tools to shame most universities.  Curriculums are replete with Advanced Placement programs, wide-ranging foreign-language instruction, outstanding student newspapers, radio and TV stations, extensive performing arts programs, etc.  To students in most of the world, including much of the U.S., these places would be almost hard to believe, educational paradises on earth, combining rigorous study, lavish facilities, and seemingly unlimited encouragement of diverse interests and creativity.

http://www.mvhs.fuhsd.org/uimg/image/1126271346116/1126505882599/1241672603766.jpg

Remarkably, of the 16 high schools represented, only 1 is private (Horace Mann, in New York).  However, most are either in highly affluent and educated districts (Palo Alto, Cupertino, Westport CT, John’s Creek GA) or are highly selective (Stuyvescent, LSMSA in Louisiana).  Four schools are in the San Francisco area, four in the NYC area.

Asian-American students predominate, making up 4 of 6 individual winners (1st, 2nd,3rd, 5th) and 9 of 14 team winners.  Exemplifying the trends, the top prize winner, Angela Zhang, attends the 72% Asian Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California, one of the nation’s most affluent cities (and naturally, home of tech superpower Apple).  A 2005 Wall Street Journal article claimed that Monta Vista was experiencing a “white flight” caused by White American families feeling overwhelmed by the academic focus of the school’s majority Asian American students, notes Wikipedia.

What conclusions might one venture from this small but interesting sample?  One, public education in the U.S. is extraordinary, in places.  You can get outstanding education for your children, without the large private tuitions paid by the elite of most countries, but you’ll probably have to invest greatly to live in one of the elite communities where this “public” good is provided.  Also, cultural factors matter a lot — Asian-American focus on education is dramatically reflected in the makeup of Siemens Competition winners — and proximity to leading cities (SF, NYC, Chicago, Atlanta in this case).

Schools of Individual Winners
#1) Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California (public, 72% Asian)
#2) Stuyvesant High School, New York, New York (public, selective)
#3) Northview High School, Duluth, Georgia (public, in John’s Creek, Georgia’s wealthiest city, near Atlanta)
#4) Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts, Natchitoches, Louisiana (statewide public, selective, residential)
#5) West High School, Iowa City, Iowa, (public)
#6) Staples High School, Westport, Connecticut (public, 1884)

Schools of Team winners
#1) Oak Ridge High School, Oak Ridge, Tennessee (public; est. 1943 for children of Manhattan Project workers)
#2) Troy High Schoool, Troy, Michigan (public)
#3) Evanston Township High school, Evanston, Illinois (public, 1883)
#4) Oceanside High School, Oceanside, New York (public, Nassau County, Long Island NY)
Horace Mann High School, Bronx, New York (private, 1887;  rated by Forbes as 2nd best prep school in US)
#5) Lowell High School, San Francisco, Californic (public magnet/selective, 1856, ranked 28th best HS by USN&WR)
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science, Denton, Texas (public, 2-yr, selective, residential)
Westwood High School, Austin, Texas (public, top-10 Texas & top 100 US rated)
#6) Palo Alto Senior High School, Palo Alto, California (public), and
Henry M. Gunn High School, Palo Alto, California (public)

“The Information Diet”: five objections to the model

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

The Information Diet, by Clay Johnson, forthcoming January 2012 from O'Reilly.

One of the most interesting recent developments in media discussions is Clay Johnson’s work and forthcoming book on “The Information Diet.”

Overall, I think “information diet” is in interesting and powerful concept. Yes, let’s take charge of our lives, in this as in other ways, to innovate and design and choose.

However, before adoping this metaphor too deeply, I’d like to suggest a few objections to consider.

1) We’ve mostly learned not to simply “blame” the obese (or the poor, or disabled), recognizing that this often blames the victim, or doesn’t help. Let’s not “blame our habits” and forget that they are bound up with environment, inheritance, society, and technology.

2) In many areas, end-users don’t control their information intake in the way one can control eating. For example, at school or at work.

3) Food is quantifiable in most important ways, such as calories, fat / carb / protein content, nutrients, etc. Information, however, is not meaningfully quantifiable so, even though the mathematical theory of information misleads us to think so. Information does not, technically, necessarily contain any meaning; a higher-res version of a video doesn’t usually convey much more information or meaning to us. A striking anecdote or 10-word epigram may produce a huge cognitive effect, while watching a terabyte movie file may have little effect at all.

Even quantifying information by time spent is problematic, because much of the time we multitask and take in different sort s of information at once. If I write email while watching a Netflix movie for an hour, is that one or two hours of information consumption?

4) The effect of information upon people is not nearly so determinate as that of food. If someone eats a Big Mac, you can accurate predict the nutritional outcome, but if they watch a political ad or a read a short story, their reaction may be almost anything.

5) More generally, the term “information” is a recently arisen term with many implications that aren’t necessarily articulated when it’s used. For example it implies quantifiability; the equivalence of different media objects with the same number of bits (“equivalent to X times the Library of Congress..”); the “content” residing objectively in the information and not in the receiver or cultural context or the social act of communication, etc. What about just looking at the natural environment, or listening to our own thoughts?: this is not usually considered information intake, but surely it’s cognitively significant.

Unless one wants to uncritically or unconsciously follow these significant suppositions, it may be helpful to take any statements about “information diet” and consider them with “information” replaced with other terms such as “meaning”, “perception”, “media”, “knowledge,” or “communication.” Is it still true, or does the assertion not seem to fit as well?

What do you think, are these valid objections, do you have any others?

follow me on Twitter:  @mccormicktim

American Scholar’s “A Jew in the Northwest”: local yokel responds

Reviewed: “A Jew in the Northwest” by William Deresiewicz. The American Scholar, Winter 2012. http://theamericanscholar.org/a-jew-in-the-northwest/

Portland and Mount Hood (USGS photo by David Wieprecht)

From what I gather, the path that led William Deresiewicz to be living in Portland (OR) and writing about it for highbrow journal The American Scholar began with childhood in suburban New Jersey, then going all the way to New York City for ten+ years at Columbia, then a full hour and a half up the road to Yale for another ten+. After this lifetime within a short radius of New York, he flies out to Portland and soon finds himself inspired with masterful, prophetic commentary about “Eastern” and “Western” America, apparently based heavily on readings of prior Jewish sojourners to the West, Bernard Malamud and Leslie Fieldler.

Saul Steinberg: "New York, Center of the Universe"

Bill, I hate to tell you this, as one of those excessively polite Portlanders, but your commentary paints you as a walking cliché of the Eastern Innocent Abroad. It’s a type instantly recognizable to us literate hicks out here in the territories, upon whom literary New York periodically drops a roving correspondent to gather glib, retailable anecdotes.

You come off as filled with the leaden provincialism that lets New York types consider almost every other place a naive province, no matter how little they know about it.  Haven’t you ever heard that a provincial is someone who judges wherever they are by the standards of where they came from? That’s you. A cosmopolitan, which evidently you’d like to think yourself, is someone to whom nothing human is foreign, who appreciates how people live, wherever he finds himself.

As it happens, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with New York provincials, and NE vs. NW. I was born in Portland, lived until age nine in London (dual U.S. / U.K. citizen), then in Portland through high school, then spent twenty years going between East and West Coast while in college at Yale and then living mostly in New York City while in grad school and working and traveling extensively for work; now I live in Portland again. For all those years, I’ve constantly compared places and people and experiences, and met innumerable people who’ve only lived in one part of the country, or have only superficially experienced other places.

While I love New York and other Eastern cities and appreciate their many richnesses, I’ve also come to appreciate that some of the most narrow, ethnocentric, judgmental people I’ve known are from the New York area, both the native and arriviste variety. While most people, I find, think of themselves as just living in one city among others, many New Yorkers I’ve met seem to frequently dwell on why they could never live elsewhere, why theirs is the “Capital of the World”, the paradigm of “city”, and other such totally self-absorbed and small-minded obsessions. They learn, at first jokingly, to think of America as largely “flyover country”, and so, all too easily, develop a flyover mentality in which practically everybody else can be easily written off as “red state” or “suburban” or “Western” etc. This is the noxious provincialism of the Metropolis, to which even the — or perhaps particularly the — elite-educated and cultured may succumb.

poster for Portland Jewish Film Festival, 2011

poster for Portland Jewish Film Festival, 2011

So you met an awkward fellow in the supermarket who was pleased to find a Jew? And if you one goes to New York everyone one meets is what, Mikhail Baryshnikov or Moses Maimonides? No, you might well meet, say, a lot of aggressive, car-honking, swearing, impatient people, upon whom you could, if you’re a real yokel, quickly erect a great stereotype about the locals. But that would be the kind of dumb, misunderstanding thing us moronic heartland tourists would do, right?

Thanks for the lengthy explication of the great writers in whose path you hope to tread. But really, one is left devoutly wishing you could put your literary lenses away and actually pay attention to the place you’re in. Close reading of Malamud and Fiedler (whereby Oregon and Montana are, remarkably, globbed into one West) seems to have saturated you with clichés of cow-towns, philistines, “bovine imperturbability,” ahistoricity, etc. Then, wow, you observe all the same things in Portland! Now the skeptical inquirer might ask, did Fiedler and Malamud perfectly describe and predict this, or… am I seeing them rather than seeing anew?

> Ethnicity….in the eastern cities…is confrontation…loving and hating one another,
> love-hating one another…Making their own city. Making their own America.

This reads less as observation than as tenth-generation bastardized Saul Bellow. Really, it pains me.

The absence of ethnicity you observe here is strangely lost on my friends who teach in SE Portland classrooms full of Russian, Eastern European, Mexican, Central American, and SE Asian immigrants, or those teaching in suburban classrooms full of Israeli, Indian, and Chinese children of technology professionals. There are large areas of town in which you could drop into any restaurant and probably not find a native-born American working there.

> “what…I’m missing…It’s edge. It’s energy. It’s irony. It’s curiosity”
> There isn’t anything that represents the past.

local Mercedes

Here’s a clue: if ever you observe no irony, there’s a good chance you’re just failing to detect it, and the joke’s on you. If you can’t detect the past, that’s because you’re not perceptive enough, not because there is no past. For example, a proud and prominent part of the city’s history is the vibrant 100+ year-old Jewish community of South and now Southwest Portland, which seems to have escaped your notice.

It sounds to me that what you miss is really certain mannerisms — a certain, deeply profound way that a woman on the subway looks at you and is like, so totally “meta,” for example. A certain ravenous, predatory, wounded quality among the warring ethnics, perhaps. But, of all things, couldn’t you have anticipated that mannerisms are exactly what you’d expect to be different in different places, and it could be an opportunity to outgrow or test yours? Being unable to tolerate the locals’ mannerisms says precisely nothing about them, everything about you.


Portland is filled with well-educated, literate people, and a large portion of immigrants from other places and countries, certainly not just or even particularly from the Midwest as you say. People here may have as much or more perspective as you, perhaps just offered up less presumptuously and preemptively. Perhaps the problem is, as you observed in another essay, “an elite education” [such as yours, at Columbia] “makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you.”  Yes, out here in Portland, many of us, to our undying shame, aren’t like you, and so in silence we labor, unblessed by your discourse.

Some of the energy and curiosity out here, which has apparently escaped your regal literary gaze, includes many of the top research and engineering labs for the world’s largest chipmaker, Intel; and the world’s largest sports and shoewear industry cluster, led by #1 company and brand worldwide, Nike. Also here are key nodes of the open-source world, including the creator of the Wiki and the creator of Linux; a thriving startup scene, and the nation’s highest recycling rates and bicycle commuting rates, and a large community of leading environmental building experts. Also, a healthy literary community, the world’s largest bookstore, and the country’s 2nd most heavily used library system. I don’t know how the locals do it, what with our bovine imperturbability and all, but it’s something you might be curious to check into while you’re passing through, if you can get past the noserings and what you see as the disturbing lack of angst among us freaks of nature.

Multnomah Village, Portland, near where I live

Anyway, It’s great that you’ve learned so deeply who you are: an “Easterner”, was that it? It’s unfortunate you haven’t, apparently, learned more about how others might see you, or see Easterners, or learned more about the city and region which finds itself patient host to your labors of self-discovery. Most of all, It’s unfortunate that you haven’t discovered the larger self that such learning might have graced you with, because then you might rise to the level of a writer capable of telling us about our time and place, rather than just so narcissistically about you.

follow me on Twitter: @mccormicktim