Ethnographic & User Data

We Own Nothing

Yap Stone Money

We are living through an interesting transition as we change our relationship with physical possessions. Physical ownership is giving way to a preference for virtual goods and services. For millennia, societies operated on a “favor bank” system, where performing favors for friends and members of the community built goodwill. This mutual support was crucial during hard times. Money and trade goods came later. Personal wealth evolved from physically holding valuables to entrusting them to banks. Today, banks themselves are a web of promissory notes, not physical reserves. Caption: Not all money was easily carried about. Rai stones for instance, remained stationary. Their ownership was determined through community consensus in the societies where they were valued. We store our financial assets in the cloud. Money, stocks, property titles, and insurance policies exist mostly in digital realms. Who actually holds physical stock certificates now? While we physically possess homes and cars (and even that might change), our ownership rights are digitally recorded. Our educational achievements and professional credentials are traded electronically. Our libraries of books, music, or games have transitioned from physical shelves to digital storage. Memories, once preserved in photo albums, calendars, and diaries, are now captured in digital formats and…

Expanding Definitions


I have taught children, teens, and adults for many years. And I am noticing a trend — as a people, in the name of a more just society, we try to make our definitions ever more expansive. Sounds like great thing, right? But consider this. Decades ago, children diagnosed as autistic were few and their symptoms had to be severe to get this diagnosis. Now we have an autistic spectrum. More and more children and adults get placed on this spectrum. We seem to want to catch as many autistic individuals as we can by expanding the definition of what it means to be on the spectrum. We are being ever more expansive in the name of justice. But shouldn’t we be expanding the spectrum the other way instead? Perhaps it is better to be more inclusive in our definition of what it means to be on the “normal” spectrum. We are all different. We all have a grab bag or positives and negatives. And that’s a good thing. It takes all of our differences to create a great society. So we can treat ADHD kids as different from “normals” or we can think of them as us. Dividing children…

Epigenetic Consequences of War


World War Z is upon us, and it behooves us to consider its consequences carefully. We all understand that deprivations and stresses of war leave scars on the survivors, physical and psychological. Bullet wounds, starvation and malnutrition, exposure and lack of sleep, physical exhaustion and lack of hygiene are but the most obvious horrors of war. And so are the psychological effects of watching loved ones suffer and die, living with uncertainty and constant threat, the fear, the everpresent anxiety, and complete powerlessness over one’s circumstances can cause as much physical damage as a bullet. And, of course, causing harm to another human, killing another being is a brutal assault on one’s soul and not something the perpetrator is likely to ever get over. All the endless wars that we have been fighting all over the world taught just how punishing these conflicts are on civilians and soldiers alike. No wonder we have a suicide epidemic among our veterans. The war for them is not over when they come home… But now consider what wars do to the next generation — not the survivors themselves, but to those who are born to them after the conflict is over. Again, the…

Women, Sex, and Plotlines

Epic header

I had this idea for writing a post about mothers and their children, but then I’ve decided that I’m too close to that subject at the moment and moved on to writing about sex. Sex sells, right? So here it goes: women, sex, and plotlines. Per, 84% of romance readers are women. Obviously, that’s not a big surprise. I remember listening to a woman who was rhapsodizing about ebooks because she no longer needed to make covers to hide the fact she was reading romances on her subway rides to work. Ebooks hide lots of unique reading preferences behind their bland consumer electronics facades. And what people say they read and what they actually buy is quite revealing. The most popular answer to what genre you like to read is mystery/crime/thriller. And yet romance/erotica is by far the most profitable category at $1.44 billion, while crime/mystery came a distant second at $728.2 million. You’d be shocked, shocked to learn that people lie about what they love to read (or do). And while we are focusing a bit on statistics, here’s an interesting tidbit: engineers did research on what kinds of search relating to sex do women do as opposed…

We are all immigrants in the land of COVID

A masked American family in 1918

I think human souls are tied to the land that bore them, shaped by it, created to fit the terrain, the weather, the language, the culture of the motherland. When transplanted into a new land, forced or otherwise, souls need to conform. They get broken somehow, edges filed away, bones cracked, empty spaces are hidden or forgotten. That’s why it is easier for kids to abandon their old homelands and immigrate to a new homeland — their souls are still flexible. Adults never truly adapt, they are forever broken, torn away from their motherland. And people who leave their birthplaces when they are somewhere in the middle — not quite adults not really children — become strange misfits. On the outside, they look like they belong, but scratch below the surface and there are surprising gaps and unexpected breaks in their psyche. America is the land of broken souls. “First-generation” or “foreign-born” comprise as much as 13% of all Americans (per 2013 census), more than one in ten! In many ways, immigrants are the most vulnerable population — these are the people who will never quite fit into the fabric of their new homes, they will forever remain tied to…

Ice Music

Coding Peter Suddenly Paris 2 Covers

I wish I had heard of Siberian Ice Drummers or the use of Lake Baikal ice as a musical instrument when I wrote the second book in the “Many Worlds, One Life” series: “Coding Peter”! If I had, it would have been featured prominently in my story. Alas, some discoveries come too late…but at least they come! Take a listen: