Monthly Archives: November 2009

Afghanistan travel writing, via Salon

While browsing for works about desert travel, I found this article about travel writing in Afghanistan: "Destination: Afghanistan," Salon, 24 August 2006. It was an interesting article, in large part because it is one of those places on Earth that I do not -- and likely will never -- remotely understand, nor will I ever likely visit.

The following is a list of works mentioned in the article:

Also, the following was suggested in the comments added to the article:

"I apologize in advance" is the social equivalent of dividing by zero

Today I'm aiming my listless, righteous indignation at the windmill of phony courtesy.

Exhibit A: I need you to do [x] for me. Thanks in advance.

Thanks in advance... why not just say what you mean, which is either (a) "thank you" or (b) "I don't think it's important to directly acknowledge you for your help."

Exhibit B is the equally valueless I apologize in advance.

Translation: "I know I'm being obnoxious, but if I'm obnoxious with a limp, indirect apology, I'll feel much better about it."

Thanks in advance and apologies in advance are the mannerly equivalents of dividing by zero. They mean nothing. They have no value. They don't exist. They void the social equation.

If you feel the urge to thank me or apologize to me in advance, either (a) don't do what you're about to do or (b) do the deed without the artificial courtesies. Be bold.

On to the next windmill.

Maps from memory

Senators' Statements — National Geographic Magazine

One of my earliest memories is riding the train from Illinois to Montana in 1987. I don't remember much about the train ride itself except for meeting another girl and drawing maps of states with her.

(How easy it is to meet girls on trains when you're six years old.)

As you can see, drawing states freehand from memory -- especially those with rivers or the Bitterroot Range for borders -- isn't so easy. The senator from Wyoming had it easy.

Found via All Things Maine.

Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice of the people

The state of matters all over the country was so alarming that George I. shortened his intended stay in Hanover, and returned in all haste to England. He arrived on the 11th of November, and parliament was summoned to meet on the 8th of December. In the mean time, public meetings were held in every considerable town of the empire, at which petitions were adopted, praying the vengeance of the legislature upon the South-Sea directors, who, by their fraudulent practices, had brought the nation to the brink of ruin. Nobody seemed to imagine that the nation itself was as culpable as the South-Sea company. Nobody blamed the credulity and avarice of the people--the degrading lust of gain, which had swallowed up every nobler quality in the national character, or the infatuation which had made the multitude run their heads with such frantic eagerness into the net held out for them by scheming projectors. These things were never mentioned. The people were a simple, honest, hard-working people, ruined by a gang of robbers, who were to be hanged, drawn, and quartered without mercy.

--Charles Mackay, "The South-Sea Bubble," Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, p. 72, 1852.