Watching, Reading, Writing, Thinking, Eating, Doing

odin 2
Odin!

It’s been a week of leisure, mostly. 

Watching

Downton AbbeyDaredevilJessica Jones and Supernatural. Love, love, love! DA is a perennial favourite and can do no wrong. I always feel like a massive, lumbering, uncouth beast after binge watching DA.

JJ is such a breath of fresh MCU air. DD took a little while to get into, but by Episode 7, I was sold. My progress through Supernatural is going much more slowly as I’m watching it with Lord Willoughby at his place. We get through about 3 – 4 episodes each session. He’s seen the whole show until Season 11, and therefore, cannot be blamed for saying, “I can’t believe how young they look…” every time we commence watching an episode in Season 1. My thoughts on Season 1 so far? Dean is adorable. And what’s with all the hot, single mums? Not that Dean minds one bit.

I took Dubs for a movie playdate to watch The Good Dinosaur and everyone was slayed by how emotional it was. Dubs was all, “This is meant to be a kids’ movie?!” The plot was great, but the premise was ridiculous, I thought. Agrarian dinosaurs? I kept looking at the rope they were using on their farm and thinking, how do they make rope without opposable thumbs… 

Reading

scarp

The Scarpetta Factor. I am such a fan of this series and its protagonist. It’s weird. I don’t really enjoy crime shows on TV, but I’ll read any Scarpetta book you put in my hands.

I have been loaned A Jane Austen Education, by the freshly minted, double-PhD,  Dr M, human geographer extraordinaire. She said it’s a lovely book. In return, I loaned her The Colour of Magic, to properly begin her introduction to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. She is halfway through his Tiffany Aching series already, which I consider to be my favourite Pratchett books.

Mercer has loaned me 2 Peter Singer books. I look forward to reading them and coming to sad terms with my being an irresponsible global citizen.

Writing

Updating my thesis’ literature review on account of it being three years old now. I’ve cleaned up my EndNote file in anticipation of this update, and have NVivo waiting and ready to analyse the interviews and focus group transcripts. I haven’t been as productive as I would have preferred, but I’m anticipating an improvement in my work ethic (and output) once Dubs is back at school.

I am about 2-3 chapters away from finishing Love In A Time Of The Zombie Apocalypse, which has officially taken me over 3 years to write. It’s bittersweet to be finishing it, as it’s been my little fanfiction side-project for some time now. However, finishing LIATOTZA means free rein to work on the original novel. There is also a Dramione Christmas drabble, called Close Quarters. The prompt was ‘Draco makes Christmas cookies’, so naturally I’m writing a horror story about the Baba Yaga. How shall I weave in the cookies? I dunno. Am two chapters in so far and having a ball.

Oh, and my article on fan fiction (which I originally posted on this blog) was published on 11&More. I cannot tell you the kind of happy dancing I did around my bedroom. Very chuffed!

Thinking

I’ve been thinking about how people use reason and evidence in arguments. I love a good argument. There is nothing sexier.

In my youth (often misspent), I came into discussions like a trebuchet launching what I liked to think were truth boulders that would obviously reduce fallacy fortresses to kindling. My default feeling when this didn’t work was not to go back to the drawing board and examine my methods, but to be frustrated.

As I grew older, I understood that discussions entail emotions, facts, evidence, anecdotes and culture in a very broad sense. Mercer says it’s also about software. Brains are amazing things capable of complex computations, but sometimes, we run faulty software. We get upgrades as we learn and experience more. I never had a proper appreciation of how culture truly affects the way we think about things. I naively assumed that my truth would be your truth if we simply spent enough time together talking it out. Two parallel lines would eventually meet, right? And when you think this way, you assume most people who disagree with you simply haven’t heard a good enough reason to switch sides.

I’ve seen mention of a book by Jonathan Haidt a few times in the past year. It’s been cited in response to what’s going on in the US Presidential elections, namely, in trying to understand why some of the US Republican candidates have such sizeable support bases who believe things that others find unpalatable or downright dangerous.

William Saletan wrote a fine review of Haidt’s book for the New York Times in 2012 and it’s made me want to read The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. The suggestion in the book is that conservatism is explainable and natural, even, and should not be ‘treated as a pathology’. One person’s reason (e.g., socialised health care, reproductive rights for women) is another person’s erosion of the moral fabric of society. This all sounds intuitive and self-explanatory, but what I find thought-provoking is the explanation for why appeals to reason do not always work. We experience frustration in conversations with friends and relatives who may, for example, deny climate change, or feel the moon landing was a hoax. You (or at least I) am of the opinion that a calm and rational discussion about the facts and evidence must be sufficient to change minds or at the very least, plant seeds of doubt. And I am left feeling bewildered when this doesn’t occur.

Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.

Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people’s minds, Haidt concludes, don’t appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason’s boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends

– William Saletan, ‘Why Won’t They Listen?’ 

I have a social policy analysis and research background, but we didn’t spend a lot of time examining conceptions of culture. Only last year, I found it useful and interesting to learn about Hofstede’s 6 cultural dimensions (see image below). Understanding a little more about the underlying reasons behind why some forms of communication work better with different people is actually really helpful for just everyday life. It leads to less harmful assumptions about what the ‘best way’ is. There is no best way. There are only more or less suitable ways and the better prepared you are, the more successfully you will communicate.

hofstedeImage source: http://usdkexpats.org/theory/hofstedes-cultural-dimensions

Cultural background and moral preferences affect how people apply reason. Reason is not laid on the table at the start of a discussion, to which either side must provide evidence for its validity. Certain foundations predispose us to reasoning in certain ways. It’s also an outcome and a product of the decisions that we have already made. If I were to take this on board, it would change the way I engage in conversations predicated on reason. Too often, I am over-excited and jump straight to ‘but surely’. Daniel Dennett cautions against using ‘but surely’ in an argument, because when invoked, the speaker is lobbying for consensus and/or marks the boundaries of what they’re actually sure of. An appropriate response from the other party might be, “but why surely?” And they’d be entitled to hear the usually very revealing answers.  So here’s to better and more productive discussions (and arguments) in 2016!

Eating

Brunch with the Detective, his lovely partner, and their glorious pussy cat of a dog, Odin. It was the Detective’s birthday! Dubs cannot get enough of Odin. She would ride him if permitted. We ate at one of the couple’s regular cafes, Revolver. They usually do the most amazing pancakes, but they didn’t have them on the menu that day. Instead, I had the veggie breakfast, which is beans, eggplant, roast tomato, avocado, fetta, mushrooms and beetroot, served with sourdough and hummus.

breakfast revolver

Doing

Annotating interview transcripts. I’ve done 4/45 so far. They’re in my bag and I take them everywhere – cafes, the pool, the gym, play centers…oh lord, so many play centers. 1 week left of the summer school holidays and I’m looking forward to having my afternoons back!

cafe
Today, at a cafe. This is basically EVERY DAY.

Dubs and Mercer have purchased and installed Minecraft on our Xbox. Dubs has only ever played it on her iPad but has asked for an upgrade so she can have a go at survival mode (she has only ever been tinkering with creative mode). In between massive deadlines, Mercer came ’round to set it all up. There’s something immensely satisfying and wholesome about watching them do this together. I’ve been given Alien Isolation and The Witcher 3 for Christmas. God only knows when I’ll be able to attempt playing them. Mercer has Fallout 4, but it would be career suicide to even crack that open right now.

minecraft

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