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Showing posts from March, 2016

Ah Bartleby, ah humanity

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One of the books I use in the Core Capstone is Sherry Turkle's Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age.  Turkle, an MIT professor, has long been interested in how human beings use and are shaped by technology.  An early advocate of our "always-connected" digital society, she has increasingly become more measured in her views.

In Reclaiming Conversation, she argues that all of our texts, tweets, posts, emails, instant messages, and snapchats have diminished the amount of time we spend in face-to-face conversations and this has produced some unfortunate side effects.  Conversation, she argues, is “the most human thing we do.”   Listening to each other, taking each other in and noticing a tone of voice, a body posture and the little "tells" that accompany our physical being are how we learn to read, understand and empathize with one another.  This skill atrophies when we spend less and less time actually doing it.

It makes sense. Developing …

Cavendish and Navy Shag

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One of the part-time jobs I had when I was going to college was working in a tobacconist's shop.  I worked nights and weekends and sold brier and meerschaums, hand-mixed tobaccos and the occasional box of cigars.  I don't smoke, but to this day I still enjoy going into a good tobacconists shop--that is when you can find one.

There are very few shops left that are devoted primarily to pipe smoking, which--unlike the retro chic of the hipster beard--has never come back into fashion. Only old men smoke pipes these days and, of course, the habit does have the unfortunate side effect of undoing its practitioners.

Pity.  The customers I knew while working in the shop were interesting men.  One had been a reporter in Chicago in the 30s.  He had known Al Capone and once interviewed Jesse Owens.  Another had been among the first Americans to cross the Rhine at Remagen during the Second World War.  Still another had been a diamond cutter in Amsterdam.  One long rainy afternoon he expla…