Inference — Critical Thought

Part I
Read these “traffic facts” taken from Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). What do these facts about how we drive say about us?
#1 Traffic facts (Tom Vanderbilt)
— “Children at Play” signs don’t reduce accidents.
— Drivers honk less on weekends. Men honk more than women, and both men and women honk more at women than at men.
— New cars crash more frequently than older cars.
— Half of all fatalities occur at a speed of less than 35 mph.
— 1 in 5 urban crashes occur when one of the drivers is searching for parking. click here to place an order for this or any other related assignment
— Saturday at 1 p.m. has heavier traffic than weekday rush hours.
— Driving aggressively burns up more gas, increases crash risk and saves one minute on a 27-mile trip.
— Solo motorists drive more aggressively.
— FasTrak lanes have been shown to increase crash rates.
— Fifty percent of American schoolchildren walked or biked to school in 1969. Today it’s 16 percent.
— Drivers seated at higher eye heights tend to drive faster. Studies show that SUV and pickup drivers speed more than the average driver.
— Car insurance premiums are tied not only to driving records but also to credit scores. The greater the credit risk, researchers find, the more likely someone is to be involved in a crash.

#2. What inference can you draw from this fact taken from Dry Manhattan by Michael A. Lerner?
There were 15,000 saloons in New York when Prohibition started; within a few years, there were 32,000.

Part II
Use your inferential skills to solve these riddles by English poet John Cotton:
Insubstantial I can fill lives,
Cathedrals, worlds.
I can haunt islands,
Raise passions,
Or calm the madness of kings.
I’ve even fed the affectionate.
I can’t be touched or seen,
But I can be noted.
We are a crystal zoo,
Welders of fortunes,
The top of our professions.
Like hard silver nails
Hammered into the dark,
We make charts for mariners.
I reveal your secrets.
I am your morning enemy,
Though I give reassurance of presence.
I can be magic,
Or the judge in beauty contests.
Count Dracula has no use for me.
When you leave,
I am left to my own reflections.
My tensions and pressures
Are precise if transitory.
Iridescent, I can float
And catch small rainbows.
Beauties luxuriate in me.
I can inhabit ovens
Or sparkle in bottles.
I am filled with that
Which surrounds me.
Containing nothing,
I can bind people forever
Or just hold a finger.
Without end or beginning,
I go on to appear in fields,
Ensnare enemies.
Or in another guise,
Carry in the air
Messages from tower to tower.
Silent, I invade cities,
Blur edges, confuse travelers,
My thumb smudging the light.
I drift from rivers
To loiter in early morning fields
Until Constable Sun
Moves me on.

Now apply the same skills to these two poems by Sylvia Plath. What does each describe?
I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful-
The eye of the little god, four cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is a part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

I’m a riddle in nine syllables.
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.

Turn your inference skill to this more serious poem by Philip Levine. What question did the boy have? What answer does the man find?
On Me!
In the next room his brothers are asleep,
the two still in school. They just can’t wait
to grow up and be men, to make money.
Last night at dinner they sat across from him,
their brother, a man, but a man with nothing,
without money or the prospect of money.
He never pays, never tosses a bill
down on the bar so he can say, “On me!”
At four in the morning when he can’t sleep,
he rehearses the stale phrase to himself
with a delicate motion of the wrist
that lets the bill float down. He can’t pace
for fear of waking his mom who sleeps
alone downstairs in the old storage room
off the kitchen. When he was a kid, twelve
or fourteen, like his brothers, he never knew
why boys no older than he did the things
they did, the robberies, gang fights, ODs,
rapes, he never understood his father’s
wordless rages that would explode in punches
and kicks, bottles, plates, glasses hurled
across the kitchen. The next morning would be
so quiet that from his room upstairs
he’d hear the broom-straws scratching the floor
as his mother swept up the debris and hear
her humming to herself. Now it’s clear,
so obvious he wonders why it took
so long for him to get it and come of age.

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