Lately, I have felt trapped in an echo chamber, where I encounter only ideas and opinions that mirror my own. This leads to a feedback loop, whereby all the information I come across reinforce my already-held beliefs. There is very little push back, nothing to counter my opinions and to force me to question what I perceive to be the truth.

Some of this is my own fault. I voluntarily watch “The Daily Show” and “Last Week Tonight”. Most of my news comes from The AtlanticThe New York Times, NPR, and Al-Monitor’ “Turkey Pulse”. I choose my friends and with whom I associate (I can count on one hand the number of friends who would consider themselves card-carrying members of the Republic party).

However, much of this siloing of my knowledge and access is a result of the algorithmic power of Facebook, Twitter, and their ilk. These social media capture data on the information I willingly provide (education, location, gender, age), as well as on the things I “like,” comment on, and click on, and provide me with more of the same. By capturing data on a particular article I read, Facebook assumes I want to see more of the same in the future and tailors my Newsfeed accordingly. It pigeonholes users in an attempt to please.

To wit, my newsfeed has been clogged with the following in the last month [and what that says about me]

The only instance where I have gotten any kind of push back is with regard to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. In this case, my fair number of Jewish friends who have differing opinions from myself on the sovereignty of Palestine post articles with which I may not necessarily agree. But even with these friends, I am too chicken to engage in an actual debate. I peruse the articles they post, but do not vocalize my differing opinions for fear of jeopardizing our friendship.

And this unwillingness to engage in a health debate is rampant, and slowly suffocating us all. We teach small children to respect the opinions of others and to discuss their problems, rathe than fighting. Yet somewhere in the intervening twenty-odd years, we disregard, forget about, throw out these lessons. We retreat to our corners and play only with our peers who like the Red Power Ranger and think the Black Power Ranger is for suckers. Congress is in partisan deadlock, unwilling to compromise on even the smallest of issues. Rather than engaging opposing views, news outlets compete to see who can yell the loudest. We see the rise of extremism worldwide (and it’s not all Islamic) and a cascade of global crises, but fail to address their root causes. In this age of overwhelming access to information, we are more ignorant of opposing views than ever. What will be the long-term costs of such polarization?

I leave you, dear readers, with one last question — when was the last time you really engaged with, had a true debate with, a person or idea whose beliefs ran counter to your own? This question has been thrown in sharp relief for me as I attempt to read a book which has a premise I do not agree with (William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts), and the answer (for me, anyway) is a long, long, long time ago. I don’t agree with Easterly’s overarching thesis; I find myself arguing with the text and poking holes in Easterly’s logic. I have to force myself to pick up this book and read the next chapter.

But it’s not all horrible. Despite my and Easterly’s diverging views on the way in which development has happened, is happening, and should happen, Easterly’s got a few fair points that need to be weighed and taken into consideration by all members of the development field. I feel more engaged reading this book than I have with any other piece of non-literary writing that I’ve encountered in years. It makes me a better economist, development worker, and policy wonk than I would ever be if i just stuck with those those writers and thinkers with whom I agree.

This book and the ever-repetitive nature of my Facebook Newsfeed make me want to seek out real, substantive dialogue with people, writing, and ideas that I would normally eschew. I find myself craving the dissonance and debate. so, if you find anything that you think might challenge me, please send it along. May the hunt begin.


*     *     *     *     *

A final aside: All of the articles and videos linked to to here are ones that have informed and reinforced, and did not really challenge, my worldview. So there’s that.

Parklar ve rekreasyon.

I love the show, “Parks and Recreation.” It’s a feel good show, full of silly antics. It makes me laugh, but more than anything, I love it for its beautiful, strong, well-rounded characters.

I love Tom, because he reminds me that sometimes you just need to treat yo’self. Ben Wyatt is the nerdy boy after my own heart; also, he invented the Cones of Dunshire. Donna Meagle, because all that sass (too much sass for me to pick just one). I identify strongly with April Ludgate’s misanthropy. Ron Swanson, because:

I love the weird cast of smaller characters — Jean-Ralphio, Tammy I, Tammy II, anyone from Eagleton, Lil’ Sebastian. My greatest love is probably for Leslie Knope, because we are the same person.

Perhaps my most under-appreciated love is for Andy Dwyer. I don’t profess to love him like I profess to love Donna, Leslie, April, and Ron. Perhaps it is because we’re so different; I find less to identify with Andy than I do with the other characters. Or at least I thought I did. Until the beauty of the internet did what I could not do, and showed me that even though Andy and I are so different, he has uttered some eternal truths…

To be honest, this whole post was written because I found one Buzzfeed post I liked. But also, it is a teaser for something I will post when I have more time in the next week, about agreeing and disagreeing, and the power of the internet.

On üç.

One of the biggest complaints of late is a lack of inspiration in my life. There are so many things I love and so many things I want to do, but I’ve been able to come up with specifics of all the things I want. Getting out of Seattle, taking a vacation, and seeing family and friends have got my brain churning in a way it hasn’t in what feels like months.

I’m a great lover of lists and I’ve come out of my vacation with multiple lists of (re)inspiration — foods to cook, songs to listen to, books to read, people to call, plans to round out my summer.

It’s the first time since the early spring that I’ve found myself truly excited to dive into life and all the things I love best. That’s not to say I’m finished slogging through the muddy waters of life’s doldrums, but I’m moving through, determined not to get stuck in the Doldrums and become a Lethargian. I need to hold onto and explore these (re)inspirations.

On bir.

A hot, sticky July night, cruising through downtown Memphis, with country music streaming out of the speakers. It’s been a long time since I’ve listened to country music and I’m falling in love all over again. Something about being with old friends, being back in the South, driving aimlessly late on a summer night. Puts me back into my teenage years. The conversation meanders through many topics until we settle on music. Someone mentions Shania Twain, and C.P. and I burst out in unison:

Whose bed have your boots been under?

And whose heart did you steal, I wonder?

This time, did it feel like thunder baby?

And who did you run to?

Return to the best of friends. Return to the best of seasons. Return to the best of music. Simple nights are the best nights.


This weekend I find myself in the company of the best of friends. The friends who know the best way to deal with stress, exhaustion, and heartbreak is with humor. The friends who know that laughter and wine are the best medicine. The friends who know just the right YouTube video.


I’ve been sitting here, on this fold-out couch in my family’s beachside apartment rental in Montauk, NY for the last half hour, trying to come up with an idea of what I am grateful for today. That’s not to say that I’m not grateful for anything tonight. Rather, all of the things for which I am grateful and about which I want to write are big things, stories that require thought, effort, care. But it is late and I am on vacation and I must get up early tomorrow, so I don’t want to do thought and effort. And I shouldn’t need to do thought and effort. I’ll save that for a later day, when I’m home and back to real life. Sometimes, you just need to give yourself a break.


So, instead, I’ll settle on this — I’m grateful for my vacation. An escape from Seattle to the East Coast was just what I needed at this juncture. I needed to escape my routine, the people and places that I frequent, the day-in-and-day-out-ness of life in which we find ourselves. I needed to revel in a bit of muggy, humid East Coast summer and to see the people who know and love me best — my family and some of my dearest friends. Ignoring my day-to-day life, taking a break from my routine has allowed me to decompress, recharge, rejuvenate. I’ve dug into some deep thoughts, some real feelings, and I’ve got a myriad of different things about which I want to write. But for now I just want to enjoy my lack of responsibility and the ease of old, unconditional-love relationships.


Ocean waves pounding on the shore,
Overlaid with a chirping chorus of cicadas.
The scent of honeysuckle and sea salt
Intermingle and hang heavy in the air.
Lighting bugs skim the grass that
Tickles bare, sun-browned feet.
Tomato-red sunburns warm the body from within,
As ocean breezes cool from without.
Ice cream, sweet and soft, melts on tongues
And drips on cutoff shorts.
The delighted squeals of children echo
Late into the dark, warm
Summer nights.


Altı/Çin şehri.

Wandering around Manhattan’s Chinatown is an attack on the senses. So many sights, smells, sounds that you cannot process them all as they hit you. Turn a corner and you’re greeted by a person, sight, smell you’ve never encountered before.

Sight: Fruit stand after fruit stand, laden with fruits of all shapes and sizes — some I know and love (cherries), some I recognize only by sight and name (dragonfruit), but most I have never encountered before (brown and prickly, what are you?). An old man giving no never mind to the traffic as he crosses the intersection diagonally, pushing his cart full of who-knows-what at a snail’s pace. Storefronts selling “real” Gucci purses next to mops and dustpans. Rats scurrying under the big, metal gates of shops closed for the night. Twenty old men in a park, doing nothing but standing in the sunshine. Daily buses to Atlanta for as little as 60 bucks.

Sound: A young Chinese man offering foot rubs for $25 and full-body rubs for $35. People, young and old, men and women, hawking their wares in a language I cannot even begin to fathom. Trucks beeping as they back up, buses roaring down too-narrow streets, cars honking at fellow drivers who wait a hair too long after the light changes from red to green. The music of scores of songbirds, brought by their owners to a park on an early weekend morning. Incomprehensible conversation.

Smell: Roasting chicken, roasting pork, raw meat. Dim sum wafting tantilizingly above the stench of yesterday’s garbage, piled on street corners. The smell of sweat, of work, of bodies, of life being lived. Smog and exhaust linger in the air, mixing an mingling with the scent of overripe vegetables. The heat of a muggy summer storm on the horizon.

Taste: Bagels and spring rolls bought on the same street corner. Green tea- and soy sauce-flavored ice creams melting on your tongue. The stinky, tangy taste of durian, something new for you. Salty sweat dripping off your nose and onto your lips. Grime, soot, dust,, debris kicked up into the air by thousands of pairs of feet.

Touch: Hot asphalt under foot. Beads of sweat and dirt lazily sliding down your back. The wet, wrinkly texture of cabbage leaves in your hand as you weigh heads (of cabbage, not actual heads). The snack wrapper stuck to your calf, covered in Cantonese symbols (or are they Mandarin?) that you cannot read. The sun beating down on the top of your head and warming your whole body. The crunch of a fortune cookie between your teeth and the dip of excitement in your stomach as you slowly unfurl your fortune.