Tag Archives: Joshua Kassab

The Most Popular Pie: A Study


The pie has been one of America’s, and the world’s, most loved desserts of all time.  The diverse amounts of flavors that the pie offers the home cook is unrivaled by any other dessert.  Naturally, this post looks into the most popular pies of the 20th century, and tries to identify some of the reasons for the ups and downs.

The first thing to catch my eye after looking at this graph was that apple pie was on top for virtually the entire century.  Additionally, if you separate the “flavor” adjectives (apple, pumpkin, lemon, and blueberry) from the others (economic, humble, whole, a, inch, and cap), you’ll see that the flavor pies follow a very similar trend.  Almost like clockwork, the flavors (most notable of being apple and lemon) begin heading upwards in popularity in 1930 and peak around 1944.  I don’t think that it is a coincidence that this is the exact same time period used to describe the Great Depression.  The depression left many people poor and hungry, so they resorted to improvising.  After looking around for some depression era recipes, I’ve found that it was very common during the time to fake a pie crust with ritz crackers, resulting in a cheaper, yet still delicious baked pastry.  After the peak in 1944 however, the flavors bottomed out in 1965 until they began to plateau to the position they are in today.  The decline could be attributed to the culture becoming more experimental after the war.  Americans were finally able to afford a larger variety of food, so naturally what was popular at the time diminished.

Pie will always be an ubiquitously loved dessert.  It has been for the past centuries, and the future only holds more ups and downs for the delicious pastry.

Removing the Nerd Stigma

For the longest time, and to some extent today, nerds were the target of intense bullying and social ostracization. Only in the past decade have people with traditionally “fringe” interests been able to enjoy their hobbies without being considered a freak. The stigma that was once associated with nerdism has been erased; the reasons for this change include these kinds of activities going mainstream, a more general acceptance of other ideas, and the growing confidence that this demographic is experiencing due to the internet.

Continue reading Removing the Nerd Stigma

A Reflection on Emergence

I knew my topic about the first day this project was assigned.  I’ve always been a fan of philosophy and some friends and I had just a few days prior talked about consciousness as an emergent property over lunch (we are a fun bunch).  It seemed specific enough to create an argument, broad enough to have the requisite amount of information needed to talk for nearly 7 minutes.  The first problem I encountered was coming up with the argument.  I knew that one could definitely build an argument around emergence, but discovering what it was took some time.  I eventually decided on “Argue that consciousness is an emergent property,” and just take it from there.


The first picture I’d like to write about took a bit to find.  I’ve always been a strong believer in including comedy into presentations; I think it holds audience’s attention better and allows the presentation to stand out among the others, even when it’s about something as dense as a philosophical concept.  An issue I had in finding an appropriate picture for this slide was that the CNN analyst was talking about nude photo leaks and I wanted to keep the presentation PG.  Luckily, Mr. Hutchinson provided some excellent satire which served its function well, as I do remember hearing some chuckles from the rest of the class when they saw this.  Even though the text on the slide was the star of the picture, which in the ideal pecha kucha I suppose it shouldn’t be, I think it fit well into the presentation as a whole.



The second picture I will write about is from a webcomic that I read religiously, xkcd.  As soon as I had the script for the Pecha Kucha written, I knew that I wanted a scene from xkcd as the closer, as it is well known for having witty, minimalist yet thought provoking strips.  I remember one comic in particular, called “Time”, was especially interesting as the image on the website changed over a span of several weeks, telling one cohesive story all the way through (for those curious, here is a link to a website where you can see all of “time”).  So I did a quick google search for “xkcd time” and found this particular scene.  I immediately knew this was the image I would use.  First off, I think the black and white and simple stick figures fit perfectly for the ending of a presentation.  I wanted to end with something simple, yet memorable.  Additionally, the text encapsulates, in a way, how humanity in general views consciousness.  Even though we as a species understands its presence and, to some extent, function, we know so little about it.  We come up with ideas like emergence to explain it, but in the end it is still this beautiful, enigmatic thing (for lack of better word) that every person experiences.

If I were to re-do the pecha kucha, I would attempt to make the slides more than just eye-candy, but rather make them central to the argument – something that I wouldn’t say is true for the majority of my slides.  I think this is a byproduct of writing the script before finding the pictures, unfortunately.  I do, however, think that having a solid script was the most important part of the presentation, and I am very happy with the way mine turned out.

Moral Psychology in Politics

The clip goes from 10:28 to 11:14 (but I highly recommend watching the whole thing, it’s a fabulous ted talk).

This ted talk explores the idea of ‘moral psychology’ and how we, or more specifically liberals and conservatives, differ in the kind of morals that are held to high esteem.  The speaker, Jonathan Haidt, explains how the five foundations of morality (harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity) differ between people at a fundamental level.  As you probably aren’t surprised, the first two were the most important to liberals; the latter three to conservatives.

The clip that I chose to analyze features Haidt using the above image as a means for arguing why the latter three are moral.   First off, the image is named “The Garden of Earthly Delight”.  The name itself implies that it has something to offer on the topic of purity/sanctity, giving the painting an air of authority on the subject.  While describing the image, Haidt steps through the panels, carefully explaining each as they apply to the latter three moral foundations, appealing to logic.  He uses comedy very well, comparing the middle and end panels as the 60’s and 70’s respectively, making light of some of the hellish depictions in the last panel while appealing to pathos.  The clip was also well organized, as the slideshow moves from panel to panel as he speaks about them so there is no mistaking what he is talking about.

The selection is a indicative of the entire talk.  The speaker uses sound logic and reasoning from very credible sources, adding comedy where appropriate throughout the video.

A Popper Post

“Popper posed his problem in a slightly different way: Just because you’ve only ever seen white swans doesn’t mean that all swans are white” (Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble, 133).  It took me longer than I’d care to admit to find where Pariser got this intriguing idea.  Karl Popper is much talked about on the internet but rarely directly quoted.  After finding a work actually written by the philosopher, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, it was clear to see why he has been paraphrased so much.  Popper wrote the same sentence as “no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white” (Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 4).  While it still conveys the same message, it’s clear that the philosopher was writing to a very different, more academic audience.  The context behind the two quotes are not exactly the same either.  The original use of the swan metaphor was to criticize induction, a method of assumption that is based on expanding a small idea into a universal one.  Pariser adapted it quite well to the modern day problem of accurate, efficient algorithm creation.  Though he paraphrased Popper’s exact diction, it was change for the better considering his target audience; it also managed to explain his point of how these computer sorters are unable to accurately place you as an individual among millions of others.

A Practical Image Analysis

Above from http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-i_zYcway0TI/UKu5K64Q3CI/AAAAAAAAiOY/rLhWkTvvEn8/s800/565CHOWthanksgiving.jpg


I love this flowchart.  As a fan of food, comedy, and practicality, it appeals to me at nearly every level.  Underneath the obvious “this flowchart explains what to bring to Thanksgiving,” it has a lot of interesting rhetoric that makes it more eye-catching and enjoyable to read.

Starting with aesthetics, the white background sets the actual content of the flowchart as the star of the image.  Had a multicolored or imaged background been chosen, the value of the content would have been diminished.  Additionally, the branches of the flowchart are conveniently separated by color, allowing the reader to easily remember what section they are in without having to backtrack.  The rhetoric behind this appeals mostly to logos, as the organization of the chart is very efficient and economical.

The diction and comedic value of the chart gives it a very relatable feeling, something that a reader will look at and think “yeah, I have been in this situation before.”  For example, using words and phrases like “fam” and “bomb-cratered warzone” instead of “family” and “lots of family arguments,” respectively, make for a much more casual, conversation-like feel when reading it.  These parts of the chart appeal mostly to pathos.  The comedic factor of the flowchart is an appeal because it simply makes the reader feel happy while viewing it.  The choice of wording is also a key part of the rhetoric.  The casual approach to the phraseology makes me willing to believe this flowchart over one with more professional diction.  An additional appeal to pathos is in the title of the chart itself.  Because it is a self proclaimed “Practical Flow Chart,” the image sets itself up from the very beginning to be humorous as well as relatable.

This flowchart is a possibly too-honest representation of the Thanksgiving experience.  I like that it is both organized well and does not bore the reader while conveying its information through comedy and casual diction.

The Information and Data Overload

“’You hunch like a pianist over the keys,’ he wrote, ‘knowing what awaits you, thinking, Ah, the untold wealth of English literature!  What hidden jewels I shall excavate from the deepest mines of human fancy!’  Then come the macaronics, the clunkers, the flood of bombast and mediocrity.  The sheer unordered mass begins to wear you down” (The Information by James Gleick, 408).

This passage, in laymen’s terms, advocates that the large quantity of information that is currently available to the average Joe is a bad thing.  That centuries, or even decades, ago, information was made and written about because it was important – as opposed to today, where information is written about simply due to its existence.  I do not share this passage’s opinion.  Throughout the selection of The Information, Gleick seems to have a negative stance towards the wealth of information that is rapidly becoming available to us.  He comments on how people are “harassed” and must “cope” with this abundance of data.  Point being, I think the quote above is a fair summary of his view.

I, however, believe that there is no such thing as too much information, as the ability to quickly access and store info on a massive scale can only benefit humanity.  While Gleick’s holdbacks are understandable, they are unreasonable in my opinion.  For instance, while it is necessary to use blogs, search engines, or aggregators to filter all of this data, the user receives the most targeted information possible.  It is tough to not find what you are looking for if you use a search engine.  This kind of customizablity can only be seen as a benefit, but Gleick nonetheless counterpoints that “The need for filters intrudes on any thought experiment about the wonders of abundant information”(Gleick, 410).  While this is true, if someone is looking for information just to find new and interesting data, then it would not be tough for her to find it, as other sites – specifically designed to bring people to thought provoking information – such as Stumbleupon.com will inevitably come to existence to provide that exact kind of exploration of knowledge.

I do not think that information fatigue will happen in this new “Information Age,” as critics said the same thing about the printing press and even the inception of written history before it.  As the prologue mentions, “Information gives rise to ‘every it – every particle, every field of force, even the spacetime continuum itself’” (Gleick, 10)  Information is a fundamental part of our lives, and I think it is wrong to attempt to slap a limit on the amount of it we, as a people, should have access to.