I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
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We had a visit from Senator Christopher Dodd last week. Always interesting to watch a politician at work. My politics are mostly in line with his, so I didn't have major objections to much of what he said (and in fact got my own moment in the press by asking a question). But it was fascinating to watch him talk and answer questions--he gave lengthly answers that managed to weave through multiple issues, so that even though the majority of the time was Q&A (as opposed to speech) he addressed all the major topics he wanted to speak to. And in some cases managed to answer questions without giving a definitive opinion, yet he was fairly outspoken on his stance on many things.
An interesting fact I didn't know was that his father, Thomas Dodd, was one of the prosecutors at the Nuremburg Trials.
Last Friday was bring your kid to work day at Pitney Bowes. It's all very fun, begins with breakfast and a magic show, followed by tours for the older kids, then a big outdoor picnic. I was a tour stop, "Let's Travel to India." They put the kids in groups by age, since some of the stops are better for older or younger ones...I ended up with groups ranging from about 8-13 years old. It was fun but exhausting.
I figured the point was more fun than educational, so pretty much I set up a slide show to talk about the fact that we invent stuff by understanding how people live and work, and asking what they knew about India. Answers: lots of people, cows...Showed them pics of cellphones, malls and offices and lots of things that look pretty similar in India as in the US, then pictures of things that look different. Fun to see their reactions. They all noticed the Subway in the mall, and they all recognized the well in the village and understood what it was for and that…
I read an interesting article on trend forecasting today. I've always found this fascinating (and wonder how much anybody checks later to see if the forecasters were right). The only thing that bothered me about this one, and this is not new, is the claim that what they do is like cultural anthropology. This is not a diss on advertising, marketing, trend forecasting, or any of the other fields that claim to be like anthropology--these folks to interesting work.
I am just annoyed at the claim itself. Granted, we anthropologists are not always good at advertising ourselves...in that we offer a holistic approach, and theoretical insight based on our training. So anybody who observes people is now an anthropologist. Or is it just that Americans are so used to sound bites that they don't understand the nuanced differences in anything?
I originally signed up for Twitter (@lxmack) a while ago, but didn't really do anything with it--no tweets, no followers. Then had a couple of friends sign up to follow me...still didn't do anything. A few weeks ago I thought that I should give it more of a try...and I have to admit that I still don't get it. I suppose I could come up with plenty of things to tweet about (the process of buying a new washer, the mystery of the blood in the house) but it seems time consuming and I am not sure who wants to know. My colleague John Braun very kindly encouraged me and gave some great advice, the most intriguing of which was his comment that Twitter can act like a group brain--ask a question and get an immediate answer. On the flip side, I joined Yammer about the same time I tried to get active on Twitter. Best quick explanation of Yammer is that it's like Twitter for inside a company (you have to have a valid email address on your corporate domain), without the 14o character…