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Peering Into the Past Thanks to Old Sears Catalogs

Ancestry.com recently emailed me an offer to look through archived Sears Catalogs. I searched the year 1922 and found it to be a worthwhile portal into the past.

I decided to focus on toys. Notice that some toys are specifically marked "Girls Toys" and "Boys Toys." The prices are always interesting. Also, many toys from 1922 seem to still be excellent toys, superior to many modern blinking bleeping toys. Those excellent toys from the past include my childhood favorite, wooden blocks.

Go to full article to see a small sampling of pages from the 1922 Sears Catalog

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Expiration Dates for Claims That Things Are Good Things or Bad Things?

It’s rather amazing that we continue to use the words “good” and “bad.” Can you think of any words that are less precise than these? Do these words even have valid or reliable meanings? “Good” and “bad” often seem to serve only as hazy placeholders for shots in the dark or ineffable emotions. Philosophers have struggled to define good and bad things for millennia with very little of practical use to show for all of their labor. Except for such fundamental things as having food and shelter and avoiding unwanted physical pain and death, people constantly disagree about what is good and bad. The subjects of these disagreements are everywhere. They include such things as good and bad food, cities, politicians, cars, jobs, art, children, pets, technology, habits, websites, books, moral choices, friends and romantic partners.

But let’s set aside our ubiquitous disagreements for a moment. Let’s assume that within our own particular comfy community we can somehow find a general consensus that something is a “good” thing. If that were possible, it would reveal an equally big problem that is the focus of this article: Good things often only seem good only until they play out in real in the real world. To our dismay, good things often turn out to be bad things with the passage of time. And things that seem bad today often turn out to be good.

? You got fired from your job (bad), which opened up a better opportunity (good).

? You got that job you always wanted (good), but two months after beginning that job, you hated it (bad).

? WWII caused terrible suffering for millions of people (bad), but that hellacious war inspired countless acts of heroism and resulted in the defeat of tyranny (good things).

? You were late to the airport and missed the plane (bad), but the plane crashed (good for you that you weren’t on it).

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WTSocial: Alternative to Facebook is Announced by Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

Jimmy Wales' (founder of Wikipedia) has a new project, WTSocial ?

I'm going to presumptively speak for "the World" here:? The World is ready for an alternative social gathering spot that respects users' privacy, discourages acrimony and tamps down hard on misinformation. I'm an early financial supporter because I really want this project to take off. This will be a fundamentally different business model than Facebook in that it will be funded through user donations. Here's are a few excerpts from a Financial Times article about WTSocial:

“It won’t be massively profitable but it will be sustainable,” [Wales] said . . . Wales said he believes the time is now right for a new venue that is free from what he calls “clickbait nonsense”. “People are feeling fed up with all the junk that’s around,” Mr Wales said.

Regarding his goals for numbers of users, Wale stated: “Obviously the ambition is not 50,000 or 500,000 but 50m and 500m.”

Photo Credit: ?Photograph: ed g2s - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15707

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Not-For-Sale Advocates Shed Light of Suspicious Privatization Process Regarding Lambert St. Louis Airport

Last night, the "Not for Sale" (anti-privatization) group sponsored a town hall meeting at the St. Louis Central Branch Library. The meeting was well attended, as you can see from the photo in the comments

I'm posting all of my notes here, given that this a critical community issue and that this "public" process is rife with secrecy. The entire process also reeks of conflicts of interest.

But tonight was a chance for the good guys to talk, and I learned a lot. Notably, none of tonight's speakers was being paid to take the positions that they were taking. This is in stark contrast to positions being taken by members of the airport Working Group. None of the speakers criticized the current public airport management. Many went out of their way to compliment the way the airport commission is running the airport. And how could that be otherwise, based on the following statistics (reflecting events from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018):

  • 29% increase in enplanments
  • 6.2% more departures
  • 20% decrease in cost per passenger
  • 5.9% more overall passengers
  • 30% debt paid off ($276 million) new line
  • $6.68 million paid into the city's general revenue fund.

The meeting started with an announcement by a representative of Congressman Lacy Clay. Congressman Clay supports a public vote regarding any privatization effort regarding the airport.

The next speaker was Dr. Ray Mundy, the Executive Director of the Airport Ground Transportation Association. Dr. Mundy stated the following: He has never seen a process like this in 40 years. For instance, $1 million is available to conduct a study of feasibility or privatization. The money is offered by the FAA. The working group didn't even apply for this money, suggesting they don't want to know what such a study would show.

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The Many Benefits of Playing Music

My parents offered me the chance to take guitar lessons when I was 7, and I agreed to do that, so now, decades later, I'm doing what many guitar players are doing: Playing self-learned keyboards! Truly, I am grateful to my parents for digging deep to buy me a guitar and provide me with lessons. I'm still playing lots of music--it is a wonderful way to spend time on planet Earth. Here's one my most recent compositions, which I call "Striding."

As much as a digital studio (Logic Pro) provides endless enjoyment, I also still love playing the guitar, absolutely love it. And I love my guitars. If the house ever caught fire, I'd work hard to save them. There is a lot to love about music, especially if you end up hitting a high enough level of competence that you are comfortable sharing your music with others in your community. I was lucky in that regard. In my late teens, I was co-band leader for a 7-piece jazz rock band that played throughout St. Louis. I treasure those days.

But now I learn that there are many other benefits to playing music that are backed by science. lists 13 of them, along with links to the science. Check out this article for explanations and links to the science. This is an impressive list:

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Homeland Security Border Suspicionless Searches of U.S. Citizens Ruled Unconstitutional

You might be surprised to hear that U.S. federal government has been demanding to inspect the digital content of the phones, computers and other devices of many U.S. citizens re-entering the U.S. even though the government lacked any suspicion of wrong-doing by the U.S. citizen. That's insane, right?

Now after a long battle by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a federal judge has ruled that the Department of Homeland Security has been acting illegally when it does that. This is a big victory against our own government, which was acting unreasonably and oppressively.

Common Dreams reports:

"This is a great day for travelers who now can cross the international border without fear that the government will, in the absence of any suspicion, ransack the extraordinarily sensitive information we all carry in our electronic devices," EFF senior staff attorney Sophia Cope said in a statement.

The lawsuit, Alasaad v. McAleenan, was filed by EFF, the national ACLU, and ACLU of Massachusetts on behalf of 10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident who had their devices searched without warrants. The suit named as defendants the Department of Homeland Security and two agencies it oversees—Customs and Border Protection as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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My New Project – Cognitive Science Book on False Dichotomies

I haven’t mentioned this to many people until now, but I’m in the early stages of writing a book. I will be focusing on about two dozen false dichotomies that ill-define us. Much of my research involves cognitive linguistics and embodied cognition, but I will touch on many other areas too. Even though I’m just getting started, the process has been both exhilarating and exhausting. Two months ago, when I hit the go button on this project, I didn’t appreciate that this would turn out to be perhaps the most challenging project of my life—these ideas are spilling out of my computer and permeating many other parts of my life, including my practice of law, my art and conversations I’ve been imposing on close friends and random strangers. Throughout my life, I’ve often been told that I’m “different” in that I often crave conversation that challenges me. I've been told that I'm severely allergic to chit chat. I plead guilty to that, and it feels like this allergy is getting worse. It's difficult for me to stop thinking about this project these days.

My outline is currently 100 pages and it will probably get a lot longer before I start trying to distill and wrestle it into a couple dozen digestible chapters. I’m been actively outlining my book for two months. Reviewing the literature has often been like drinking out of a fire hydrant, even though I’ve been given a big assist from the past. I’m repeatedly feeling grateful that the younger version me decided to A) audit dozens of credit hours of graduate level cognitive science classes at Washington University and B) write about many of these topics for twelve years at this website. I wouldn’t have had the audacity to undertake this project without both of these investments. I conclude this even though I can now see that many of my prior writings were na?ve and wrong-headed.

I’m lucky to be in a position to dedicate substantial chunks of uninterrupted time to this. It sometimes even feels like a calling, which sounds so terribly self-important. To temper this self-confidence, a voice in my head often whispers that this endeavor is only for my own satisfaction and that I don’t have anything of substantial value to add to ongoing vigorous worldwide conversations by numerous brilliant writers who have made careers doing deep dives into the human condition. That might be correct. We’ll see, but I’m still going to give this a try.

Why does this project speak to me? Once you wrap your head around the past several decades of research of cognitive scientists, once you are no longer merely passively enjoying these concepts, something transformative happens. Once you start breathing these concepts, feeling them in your bones and muscles, almost everything changes, and it can sometimes be scary. I remember a conversation 20 years ago with a close friend. We were discussing a paper I wrote on the role of attention on moral decision-making. I will never fet that look she gave me.

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I Cannot Read your Mind. Or your Face.

I'm not good at reading other people's minds, even when they think that I should have seen the emotions on their faces. Now there is science substantiating that I am not unusual in this regard.

Most of the time, other people can’t correctly guess what we’re thinking or feeling. Our emotions are not written all over our face all the time. The gap between our subjective experience and what other people pick up on is known as the illusion of transparency. It’s a fallacy that leads us to overestimate how easily we convey our emotions and thoughts.

The above excerpt is from an excellent blog, Farham Street.
Therefore, if we happen to be together, if you want to make sure that I understand what you are thinking, please use your words!

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