Author: ehawkes

Ivan Ilych’s life was the most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible.

The self that dies is radically separate, not only from the material world but also from other selves. My consciousness is essentially private; I cannot directly experience the mind of another. I may know everything public about another conscious being, but I cannot experience being that other. Knowing from direct experience is one thing, and knowing about, from an outside perspective, is quite another. Mortality therefore entails unspeakable loneliness.

Itself a narrativized apothegm, Tolstoy’s novella contains several of his most-cited lines. Ivan Ilych has lived as if his public role exhausted his identity, but in his mortal illness he discovers the private self, inaccessible from the outside, that he has overlooked. He senses with horror that his role will go on but his “I” will die.

None of us can really grasp this fact, but for Ivan Ilych it is all the more terrible because he is losing the self just as he realizes he has it. He has thought of himself as his “place” (mesto), a word that means not only physical location but also job (position) and social role (place in society). He has assiduously avoided doing anything “inappropriate” (literally, out of place). But the self is not a place, and so he has missed it until, when dying, he recognizes that besides what is here and now, there is something else.

What Ivan Ilych takes to be the glory of his life, his amazing ability to “fit in” with others, depends on a “virtuoso” erasure of self. But as he will learn, nothing can be worse than success in such a venture. That is the meaning of the frequently cited apothegm that begins Chapter 2: Ivan Ilych’s life was the most simple and most ordinary and therefore the most terrible. (GSW, 255)

Morson, Gary. The Long and Short of It: From Aphorism to Novel

State of RTD, Westword on

Over the course of a single weekday, people in metro Denver collectively travel more than 110 million miles — greater than the distance between the Earth and the sun. More than 1.8 million employed adults and 650,000 students need to get to work or school and back, and over 2 million passenger cars, freight trucks, buses and other vehicles clog the region’s streets and highways. Though it’s currently only responsible for moving a small fraction of these commuters through this vast transportation network, the RTD system has to balance a staggering array of competing needs and priorities.

During any given morning rush hour, perhaps 100,000 people board an RTD bus or train, bound for 100,000 destinations across a service area the size of Delaware. Eight hundred buses, driven by 800 operators, work their way between nearly 10,000 passenger stops along 169 fixed routes. Two hundred rail vehicles are weaving through downtown traffic or speeding through railroad crossings from Wheat Ridge to Peña Boulevard.

RTD Sees a Future That Runs on Transit — but First, It Has to Weather a Crisis
Chase Woodruff, Westword

Separation of Tasks

PHILOSOPHER: All you can do with regard to your own life is choose the best path that you believe in. On the other hand, what kind of judgment do other people pass on that choice? That is the task of other people, and is not a matter you can do anything about.

YOUTH: What another person thinks of you—if he or she likes you or dislikes you—that is that person’s task, not mine. Is that what you are saying?

PHILOSOPHER: That is what separating is. You are worried about other people looking at you. You are worried about being judged by other people. That is why you are constantly craving recognition from others. Now, why are you worried about other people looking at you, anyway? Adlerian psychology has an easy answer. You haven’t done the separation of tasks yet. You assume that even things that should be other people’s tasks are your own. Remember the words of the grandmother: “You’re the only one who’s worried how you look.” Her remark drives right to the heart of the separation of tasks. What other people think when they see your face—that is the task of other people and is not something you have any control over.

Kishimi, Ichiro. The Courage to Be Disliked: The Japanese Phenomenon That Shows You How to Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness

Sentencing Reform in Oklahoma

TAFT, Okla. — Julie Faircloth walked out of an Oklahoma prison near the head of a line of nearly 70 women who were freed on Monday, as part of one of the largest single-day releases of prisoners in the nation’s history.

They were greeted by screams of joy from relatives who had gathered outside the prison, a minimum-security facility southeast of Tulsa. Hugging first her mother, then her husband, Ms. Faircloth, 28, said she was overwhelmed. “I can’t even put words to it,” she said.

Across Oklahoma on Monday, 462 inmates doing time for drug possession or similar nonviolent crimes had their sentences commuted as the first step in an effort by state officials to shed the title of the nation’s incarceration capital.

 

Voters forced the hand of Oklahoma lawmakers in 2016 when, by a wide margin, they approved a plan to shrink prison rolls by downgrading many felonies to misdemeanors, including simple drug possession and minor property crimes.

Nearly 500 Prisoners Freed on a Single Day
Oklahoma has one of the nation’s highest incarceration rates, but a law downgrading minor crimes is the first step in an effort to change that.
Kristi Eaton and Richard A. Oppel Jr.
NY Times

Your Consumer Rating and History

As consumers, we all have “secret scores”: hidden ratings that determine how long each of us waits on hold when calling a business, whether we can return items at a store, and what type of service we receive. A low score sends you to the back of the queue; high scores get you elite treatment.

Every so often, journalists lament these systems’ inaccessibility. They’re “largely invisible to the public,” The New York Times wrote in 2012. “Most people have no inkling they even exist,” The Wall Street Journal said in 2018. Most recently, in April, The Journal’s Christopher Mims looked at a company called Sift, whose proprietary scoring system tracks 16,000 factors for companies like Airbnb and OkCupid. “Sift judges whether or not you can be trusted,” he wrote, “yet there’s no file with your name that it can produce upon request.”

As of this summer, though, Sift does have a file on you, which it can produce upon request. I got mine, and I found it shocking: More than 400 pages long, it contained all the messages I’d ever sent to hosts on Airbnb; years of Yelp delivery orders; a log of every time I’d opened the Coinbase app on my iPhone. Many entries included detailed information about the device I used to do these things, including my IP address at the time.

Sift knew, for example, that I’d used my iPhone to order chicken tikka masala, vegetable samosas and garlic naan on a Saturday night in April three years ago. It knew I used my Apple laptop to sign into Coinbase in January 2017 to change my password. Sift knew about a nightmare Thanksgiving I had in California’s wine country, as captured in my messages to the Airbnb host of a rental called “Cloud 9.” 

I Got Access to My Secret Consumer Score. Now You Can Get Yours, Too.
Kashmir Hill
NY Times