Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, January 4, 2013

Headlines & Quotes of the Week

"Even After..."

"And even after accounting for financial aid, the costs of attending a public university have risen 60 percent in the past two decades."--Jason DeParle, New York Times, Dec. 22

Science Marches On

"Scientists Create Projectile Vomiting Robot Named Vomiting Larry"--headline, Geek.com, Jan. 3

Just what the world has been waiting for. 

And On

"Hot Chocolate Tastes Better in an Orange Cup Say Scientists"--headline, ScienceSpaceRobots.com, Jan. 3


But do oranges taste better in a chocolate cup?  How do they know?  Or do they only know that "more respondents replied affirmatively" and they could not possibly lie or be mistaken on a matter of taste.  Didn't science used to eschew such things as taste on the grounds that they were subjective? 

But Can He Chew Gum Without Falling?

"Teen Smoking Keeps Falling"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, Dec. 20

That's Where Most People Think He Hangs Out Anyway

"At Christmas Eve Mass, Pope Urges Space for God"--headline, Associated Press, Dec. 24

How to Make Dawkins' Head Explode

Currently, I see in Germany, but also in the United States, a somewhat fierce debate raging between so-called ‘creationism’ and evolutionism, presented as though they were mutually exclusive alternatives: those who believe in the Creator would not be able to conceive of evolution, and those who instead support evolution would have to exclude God. This antithesis is absurd because, on the one hand, there are so many scientific proofs in favor of evolution which appears to be a reality we can see and which enriches our knowledge of life and being as such. But on the other, the doctrine of evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from?
– Pope Benedict XVI
Interesting that he says "so-called" creationism (den sogenannten Kreationismus).  See here for original, scroll to "Ich sehe, daß zur Zeit in Deutschland, aber auch in den Vereinigten Staaten".  

On the Training of Freethinkers

No group is as rigidly conformist as a bunch of college freshmen. They have been introduced into a new society – college – different from and presumed superior to their home. They MUST fit in – it’s a human drive as powerful in most people as sex and hunger. The keepers of this society are largely the professors, and those who can play the professors’ games. So, college freshmen are exceedingly unlikely to question anything their professors and peers tell them – they are painfully aware that they are the provisional junior members of this tribe. So, they not only accept Power Dynamic analysis, deconstruction and relativism without question, they become their staunchest defenders. Problem is, their defense consists entirely of pointing out that any questioner is not a member of their tribe – no argument is made (in fact, it’s difficult to imagine a 19 year old traditionally educated college freshman having the intellectual chops to even make a rudimentary argument about anything at all. Assuming they’d want to, which they don’t). Mockery, insult and presumed intellectual and moral superiority are the tools.
-- Ishmael Alighieri 
Ah, the herd of independent minds.  

Tacit Comment

“Then too the truthfulness of history was impaired in many ways; at first, through men’s ignorance of public affairs, which were now wholly strange to them, then, through their passion for flattery, or, on the other hand, their hatred of their masters. And so between the enmity of the one and the servility of the other, neither had any regard for posterity. But while we instinctively shrink from a writer’s adulation, we lend a ready ear to detraction and spite, because flattery involves the shameful imputation of servility, whereas malignity wears the false appearance of honesty. … those who profess inviolable truthfulness must speak of all without partiality and without hatred. I have reserved as an employment for my old age, should my life be long enough, a subject at once more fruitful and less anxious in the reign of the Divine Nerva and the empire of Trajan, enjoying the rare happiness of times, when we may think what we please, and express what we think.”
– Tacitus, The Histories, Book I
Speculations on modern examples of hatred and flattery are left as exercises to the readers.  But be careful how you express your thoughts.  

3 comments:

  1. That 'even after' NYT article is amazing on several levels, the most egregious being never raising the question of: are there jobs for college graduates? About 30% of US adults have a 4 year degree, a rate that has remained largely steady for the last 4 decades. So, do 30% of jobs require a 4 year college degree? It's hard for anyone not in the thrall of the educational establishment to imagine they do.

    One example I remember from years ago - claims adjuster manager. Does that guy need a college degree? He needs experience adjusting claims, and experience managing people, neither of which he'll get in the course of getting a college degree. But the company I worked for was looking for applicants with degrees. Why? It's not the skills. Could it be that college acts as a filter, so that a company can be reasonably sure that the college graduate will be cool with mindless bureaucracy and pointless tasks?

    The main lie those three poor young ladies were fed: that there would be a job for them at the end of the road. The next biggest was to confuse cause and effect: having a financially well-established family is generally a *cause* of successful college completion, not an effect of getting a degree. 50 years ago, maybe the college degree was a meal ticket. That was an anomaly, historically. The norm to which we are reverting is that the scions of well-connected families do well, and those of poorly connected (or dissolved or non-existent) families do poorly. This is and has been almost always true.

    There are exceptions. Educators *love* those exceptions, where some poor kid achieves his life dream through schooling. But what they fail to see is that the exception is always enabled by some loving involved person - Mrs G, in this story, as well as Mrs. Lady and the other supporters of these girls - school being again a effect, not a cause, of 'success'. And their failure was not caused by anything having to do with education per se, but rather with a lack of the appropriate social connections - connections which, if they had them, would make the degree itself very secondary.

    Success here, as always for us humans, is being a truly loved and valued human being.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Requiring a degree also serves as a protection from accusations of bias-- it's not 100%, or even 50%, but it does let you say "Um... you're obviously a drug addicted, long criminal record, personally questionable psycho without the organizing ability to get dogs to come to supper. Why would I want you near me-- let alone hire you?!?!" without being sued.

      That it screws you out of the people who would be perfect for the job, but didn't go through college, is just a nasty side-effect.

      Delete
    2. Back in the 1950s, Harvard did a study that found a correlation between the grades one received in high school and the salary being earned ten years after graduation. Hordes of parents descended on the high schools of America demanding that little Jimmie or Jane be given an A instead of a B, or a B instead of a C. (No one had invented the + or - modifier.) The belief was that if a teacher in PS 123 erased a letter in a grade book and replaced it, then Jimmy's employer ten years later would give him a raise. This is no less than belief in sympathetic magic, and indicates that the rise of irrationality began earlier than is usually supposed. (It was in the 1950s, Jacques Barzun noted, that the expression "I feel that..." began to replace "I think that...")
      It used to be that to get a decent job you needed a high school education. That's still true today, but you have to go to college to get one. That may account for the BS about BS degrees.
      People have also long forgotten the root distinction between BS and BA, and why BA was a higher degree.
      + + +

      Delete