[ Go to lecture about role of books today! ] Quotes that have touched me (page 15 of 16)
Disclaimer: Citation of a quote, below, does not necessarily imply that I agree with what it asserts (under whatever interpretation); it does mean I feel the text says something seriously worth thinking about.
"Every sentence that I utter should be regarded by you not as an assertion but as a question." --Niels Bohr[ Always reflect yet one more time! ]
[ Notice what's hiding in plain sight! ]"There is more to the surface than meets the eye." --Aaron Beck
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Wikipedia is the online encyclopedia that "anyone can edit. [Ed. note: with some restrictions]".
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Wikipedians often speak of how powerfully liberating their first contribution felt. Kathleen Walsh, 23, a recent college graduate who majored in music, recalled the first time she added to an article on the contrabassoon.... "You write all these pages for college and no one ever sees it, and you write for Wikipedia and the whole world sees it, instantly." Ms. Walsh is an administrator, a post that others nominated her for in recognition of her contributions to the site. She monitors a list of newly created pages, half of which, she said, end up being good candidates for deletion. Many are "nonsense pages created by kids, like 'Michael is a big dork,'" she said.
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But beyond the world of reference works, Wikipedia has become a symbol of the potential of the Web. "It can tell us a lot about the future of knowledge creation, which will depend much less on individual heroism and more on collaboration," said Mitchell Kapor, a computer industry pioneer who is president of the Open Source Applications Foundation. Zephyr Teachout, a lawyer in Burlington, Vt., who is involved with Congresspedia, said Wikipedia was reminiscent of old-fashioned civic groups like the Grange, whose members took individual responsibility for the organization's livelihood. "It blows open what's possible," said Ms. Teachout. "What I hope is that these kinds of things lead to thousands of other experiments like this encyclopedia, which we never imagined could be produced in this way."
Katie Hafner, "Growing Wikipedia Revises Its 'Anyone Can Edit' Policy", NYT on the Web, 17Jun06. The article continues: "At its core, Wikipedia is not just a reference work but also an online community that has built itself a bureaucracy of sorts -- one that, in response to well-publicized problems with some entries, has recently grown more elaborate. It has a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control, delete unsuitable articles and protect those that are vulnerable to vandalism." Ed. notes: There are many issues here, including the reliability of this new fluidity of our civilization's knowledge base compared with the archival "solidity" of uniform printed editions of books, and also the vulnerability of the preservation of knowledge which demands high-technology (which is always changing and obsoleting itself -- see Quote #265, immediately below...), instead of just "bookshelfs" protected from environmental hazards, etc.
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See also an idea I had (not later than 1999): "A Role for General Encyclopedias in the Digital Age"; and a commercial project that seemed to possess great power for turning the Internet into a universal annotational conversation, but failed: "Third Voice". I invite you to reflect on how Wikipedia (and other web initiatives) can nurture: The proper activity of human persons, which, in its turn, may find opportunities for fulfillment in these web initiatives.
The nation's 115 million home computers are brimming over with personal treasures -- millions of photographs, music of every genre, college papers, the great American novel and, of course, mountains of e-mail messages. Yet no one has figured out how to preserve these electronic materials for the next decade, much less for the ages.... [T]he problem of digital archiving, which seems straightforward, confounds even the experts. "To save a digital file for, let's say, a hundred years is going to take a lot of work," said Peter Hite, president of Media Management Services, a consulting firm in Houston. "Whereas to take a traditional photograph and just put it in a shoe box doesn't take any work." Already, half of all photographs are taken by digital cameras, with most of the shots never leaving a personal computer's hard drive. So dire and complex is the challenge of digital preservation in general that the Library of Congress has spent the last several years forming committees and issuing reports on the state of the nation's preparedness for digital preservation. Jim Gallagher, director for information technology services at the Library of Congress, said the library, faced with "a deluge of digital information," had embarked on a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project, with an eye toward creating uniform standards for preserving digital material so that it can be read in the future regardless of the hardware or software being used. The assumption is that machines and software formats in use now will become obsolete sooner rather than later. Katie Hafner, "Digital Memories, Piling Up, May Prove Fleeting", NYT Archive, published 10Nov04. Ed. notes: (1) I was sure I had already posted this somwhere on my website, so I could refer to it in Quote #266, immediately above, but I could not find it -- what does that say about online "libraries"? (2) I also read somewhere (ref. lost) that in many disciplines, data from before they started digitizing information is just being ignored, because it can't be fed into the data analysis programs, thus truncating our collective "memory" at, say 198?. --Obviously, at least some of this information could become effectively remembered again if someone feels it is important enough to digitize and if it can be coded into a form the data analysis programs can use.
President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain... [s]peaking in subdued, almost chastened, tones at a joint news conference... stuck to a common formulation that they would pull troops out [of Iraq] only as properly trained Iraqi troops progressively took control over more and more territory in the country.
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But in an unusual admission of a personal mistake, Mr. Bush said he regretted challenging insurgents in Iraq to "bring it on" in 2003[[ Read original quote! ]], and said the same about his statement that he wanted Osama bin Laden "dead or alive." Those two statements quickly came to reinforce his image around the world as a cowboy commander in chief. "Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people," Mr. Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner."
David E. Sanger and Jim Rutenberg, "Bush and Blair Concede Errors, but Defend War", NYT on the Web, 26May06.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush said Wednesday [02Jul03] that American troops under fire in Iraq aren't about to pull out, and he challenged those tempted to attack U.S. forces, "Bring them on." "We got the force necessary to deal with the security situation," President Bush said of U.S. troops in Iraq.... Bush pledged to find and punish "anybody who wants to harm American troops," and said the attacks would not weaken his resolve to restore peace and order in Iraq. "There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on," Bush said. "We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation." USATODAY.com, "Bush: 'Bring on' attackers of U.S. troops", Posted 7/2/2003 11:47 AM Updated 7/2/2003 9:07 PM (Emphasis added).
"Some people put a premium on where they're going to go in the future, and all they're thinking about is graduate school and the next step," said Lindsay Nicholas, a third-year student at U.C.L.A. She added that pressure to succeed "sometimes clouds everything and makes people do things that they shouldn't do." In a survey of nearly 62,000 undergraduates on 96 campuses over the past four years, two-thirds of the students admitted to cheating.... David Callahan, author of "The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead" (Harcourt, 2004), suggested that students today feel more pressure to do well in order to get into graduate or professional school and secure a job. "The rational incentives to cheat for college students have grown dramatically, even as the strength of character needed to resist those temptations has weakened somewhat," Mr. Callahan said.... Jonathan D. Glater, "Colleges Chase as Cheats Shift to Higher Tech", NYT on the Web, 18May06. Ed notes: Isn't it important to do things that will help make one's future bright in today's economy where prospects are dim and getting dimmer for so many? If there are rational incentives to do the wrong thing, then do "we" want young persons to become irrational so as to be good? Or is the structure of a society that makes doing wrong rational itself a deeper problem? As the cliché says: As you sow, so shall you reap. (Etc.) ~The main point of the article is: "With their arsenal of electronic gadgets, students these days find it easier to cheat." The article also notes: "Whatever the reasons for cheating, college officials say the battle against it is wearing them out."
An unusual clash between a 6-foot (1.8m) alligator and a 13-foot (3.9m) python has left two of the deadliest predators dead in Florida's swamps. The Burmese python tried to swallow its fearsome rival whole but then exploded.... The python's remains with the victim's tail protruding from its burst midsection were found [See picture!].... The head of the python was missing.... the alligator may have clawed at the python's stomach, leading it to burst. "Snake bursts after gobbling gator", BBC online; Last Updated: 05Oct05, 21:42 GMT. Ed. notes: This story reminds me of Erich von Stroheim's pointedly titled silent film masterpiece: "Greed".
"We see a direct connection between the practice of contraception and the practice of abortion," says Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, an organization that has battled abortion for 27 years but that, like others, now has a larger mission. "The mind-set that invites a couple to use contraception is an antichild mind-set.... So when a baby is conceived accidentally, the couple already have this negative attitude toward the child. Therefore seeking an abortion is a natural outcome. We oppose all forms of contraception."...
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"The linking of abortion and contraception is indicative of a larger agenda, which is putting sex back into the box, as something that happens only within marriage," says William Smith, vice president for public policy for the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States....
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"I cannot imagine any development in human history, after the Fall, that has had a greater impact on human beings than the pill,"... R. Albert Mohler Jr. [president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary]... [said]. "It became almost an assured form of contraception, something humans had never encountered before in history. Prior to it, every time a couple had sex, there was a good chance of pregnancy. Once that is removed, the entire horizon of the sexual act changes. I think there could be no question that the pill gave incredible license to everything from adultery and affairs to premarital sex and within marriage to a separation of the sex act and procreation."...
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The dark side of this, according to some commentators, is the declining birth rate in Europe. It takes an average of 2.1 children per woman to keep a population constant.... As the Canadian priest Raymond J. de Souza wrote in National Review in 2004, "If children are a sign of hope in the future, Europe --- and to a lesser extent Canada, Australia and the United States -- is losing its will to live."
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This would seem to be a bind, because the benefits of family planning are profound: couples can organize their lives, financially and otherwise, when they are able to choose when to have children and how many to have. And, around the world, countries in which abortion is legal and contraception is widely available tend to rank among the lowest in rate of abortion....
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The problem with this, as far as American social conservatives are concerned, is that it treats symptoms rather than what they see as the underlying disease: an outlook that is focused on the individual at the expense of family and society. Their ultimate goal is not a number -- the percentage of abortions or unintended pregnancies -- but an ideal, a way for people to think and behave. As Mohler says of the Dutch approach in particular: "The idea is to completely sever the sex act from reproduction, and then train teens to do it. It treats sex as a morally meaningless act. I find it profoundly anti-humanistic."...
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Peter Bearman, director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia University, who has analyzed virginity pledge programs including Rector's, says: "The money being poured into these programs is out of control. And the thing is this is not about public health. It's a moral revolution. The goal is not stopping unwanted pregnancy but stopping sexual expression."
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Focus on the Family posts a kind of contraceptive warning label on its Web site: "Modern contraceptive inventions have given many an exaggerated sense of safety and prompted more people than ever before to move sexual expression outside the marriage boundary." Contraception, by this logic, encourages sexual promiscuity, sexual deviance (like homosexuality) and a preoccupation with sex that is unhealthful even within marriage.
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[A]ccording to Sarah Brown of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy... "One of the things I'm most often asked is why the abortion and unintended pregnancy rates are so much lower in Europe," she says. "People talk about the easy access to contraception there, but I think it's really a matter of the underlying social norms. In Europe, these things are in the open, and the only issue is to be careful. Here in the U.S., people are still arguing about whether it's O.K. to have sex."
Russell Shorto, "The War on Contraeption", NYT Magazine, 07May06, pp.48-55,68,83 (emphasis added). As to the George W Bush administration's position, the article says: "At a White House press briefing in May of last year... Press Secretary Scott McClellan was asked four times by a WorldNetDaily correspondent, Les Kinsolving, if the president supported contraception. 'I think the president's views are very clear when it comes to building a culture of life,' McClellan replied. Kinsolving said, 'If they were clear, I wouldn't have asked.' McClellan replied: 'And if you want to ask those questions, that's fine. I'm just not going to dignify them with a response.' This exchange caught the attention of bloggers and others. In July, a group of Democrats in Congress, led by Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, sent the first of four letters to the president asking outright: 'Mr. President, do you support the right to use contraception?' According to Representative Maloney's office, the White House has still not responded."
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[See also: Quote #260, below[ Read about 'conservative' campaign against contraception! ]]
It is one of the oddities of our history that this very religious country [the United States] was created by men who, for one brief but significant moment, had serious reservations about religion in general and Christianity in particular. According to David L. Holmes's "Faiths of the Founding Fathers," none of the first five presidents were conventional Christians. All were influenced to one degree or another by Deism, the once-popular view that God set the world in motion and then abstained from human affairs.... Men of the Enlightenment, they feared what Washington called "the horrors of spiritual tyranny." Their conception of religious liberty made room for non-Christians and even nonbelievers, and their language deliberately avoided sectarian terminology. They were intellectual radicals, willing to push the idea of religious tolerance further than it had ever been pushed before.... We often want to believe that history moves forward. When we compare the role of religion in politics at our founding to its role today, we just might conclude otherwise. Alan Wolfe, "Keeping the Faith at Arm's Length", NYT Book Review, 07May06, p.26 (emphasis added). [See also: Quote #233.]
Britain's falling birth rate is being fuelled by a generation who would rather have fun and live comfortably than have children, a survey suggests. The poll of 1,006 adults for the Guardian also suggested potential parents were forced to delay family life by career pressures. Half of the adults quizzed said they found it increasingly difficult to find someone to have a family with.... When asked why the birth rate in Britain was low, people pointed to the cost of living and difficulty of combining work and family life.... A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association said things had changed both for women and men, with more choices and opportunities open to both. "There are more things you can do in life, such as going off travelling and going to university. But it's actually quite a responsible thing to do, to wait until you are financially secure before having a family so that you can provide for your children." [ Don't miss out on having babies? ]"Britons 'put fun before babies'", BBC online, 02May06. The article further noted: "[M]ost men (64%) and most women (51%) said it was more important for women to enjoy themselves than have children.... 37% thought that many people now leave it too late and miss the chance to have children." [See also: Quote #261, above[ Read about 'conservative' campaign against contraception! ]]
¶Success masks failure. The more a thing operates successfully, the more confidence we have in it. So we dismiss little failures -- like the repeated loss of a space shuttle's insulating tiles launchings -- as trivial annoyances rather than preludes to catastrophe.
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¶Systems that require error-free performance are doomed to failure.
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¶Computer simulations and other methods of predicting whether components will fail are themselves vulnerable to failure.
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¶Devices can be made foolproof, but not damn-fool-proof....
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¶Today's successful design is tomorrow's failure, in that expectations for technology are continually on the rise.
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¶A device designed for one purpose may fail when put to another use. (Is it fair to call that a failure? Dr. Petroski smiled. "Good question," he said.)
Prof. Henry Petroski, Duke Univ., interviewed in: Cornelia Dean, "Engineering a Safer, More Beautiful World, One Failure at a Time", NYT on the Web, 02May06. Read more: (a) The crash of the Concorde SST. (b) The crash of Swissair Filght 111.
In Europe, says Grace Davie, an expert on religion at Exeter University in England, "the Enlightenment was seen as freedom from religion ... getting away from dogma, whereas in the [US] it meant freedom to believe." In America, a country founded in part by religious dissidents fleeing an oppressive government, "religious groups are seen as protecting individuals against the interference of the state," says... Patrick Weil, a sociologist of religion at the Sorbonne in Paris.... In Europe, on the other hand, the post-Enlightenment state "is seen as protecting individuals from the intrusion of religious groups," Weil argues, after centuries during which the official church, be it Catholic or Protestant, had always been closely identified with temporal powers. While religion and democracy have always been intertwined in America, where churches were at the forefront of battles against slavery and in favor of civil rights,... in Europe... estab-lished churches in countries such as Spain and France long opposed political reform. European mistrust of public religion is heightened even further, however, when it is mixed with patriotism in the kind of rhetoric that President Bush often uses. Owen Franken, "What place for God in Europe? -- Enlightenment divergence", Christian Science Monitor online, 22Feb05. The article continues: "In Europe, secularism is not understood as necessarily hostile to religion. In France, the term denotes a level playing field, on which the state allows all religions to operate freely, but stands aside. Elsewhere, it means an indifference to faith. More generally, secularism refers to an approach to life grounded not in religious morality but in human reason and universal ethics.... 'Europe's history has led Europeans to a more cosmopolitan worldview, which tries to understand "the other,"'... Martin Ortega, an analyst at the EU's Institute for Security Studies in Paris... suggests.... And as religion's importance fades in people's lives, their permissiveness increases, the... most recent... European Values Study found." (Read more[ Read more about 'post religion' in Europe! ])
STEELTON, Pennsylvania (AP) -- A 6-year-old girl who escaped a house fire early Tuesday died after running back inside to find her mother.... The youngster did not realize that her mother had jumped to safety from a second-floor window. Firefighters found the body of little Da-Onah Watts under a bed on the second floor. Da-Onah and a 13-year-old cousin had been asleep on the first floor when they awoke to flames and ran from the house, said Police Chief Kenneth Lenker. The older girl, Nesha Barely, lost her grip on Da-Onah as they escaped.... Nesha told authorities Da-Onah kept yelling for her mother and went back in to try to find her.... Neighbor Evelyn Brubacher said Da-Onah was a sweet, well-behaved girl, and she and her mother were very close. "Child dies after running into burning home to find mother", CNN online, 26Apr06; Posted: 7:45 a.m. EDT.
...[M]ilitary and intelligence agencies have pulled some 55,000 pages of decades-old documents from public access at the National Archives. Some documents were photocopied long ago by researchers. In the case of [a certain] redacted 1946 memorandum, the State Department had already published it in the multivolume history "Foreign Relations of the United States." At a House hearing... Representative Christopher Shays of Connecticut... demanded an explanation. Allen Weinstein, archivist of the United States, proceeded to recount what he knew about a secretive program he said he had first learned about from a newspaper article. But then he too hit a wall of secrecy. Mr. Weinstein said part of the reclassification effort was guided by a written agreement between the National Archives and "a component of the Department of Defense." Mr. Weinstein couldn't say just which component or what was in the agreement, because "it contains classified information which I am not prepared to discuss in open session." This prompted an exasperated Representative Henry A. Waxman of California to ask, "Why is it classified?" To which Mr. Weinstein forlornly replied, "I don't know.".... Last week, the National Archives released a declassified copy of the agreement it had signed in 2002 -- with the Air Force, it turned out. The document showed the archives had agreed to keep the reclassification secret "to avoid the attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has already been available publicly from the open shelves for an extended period of time." Robert Shane, "Why the Secrecy? Only the Bureaucrats Know", NYT on the Web, 16Apr06.
When Lenovo, the Chinese personal computer maker, bought I.B.M.'s personal computing business for $1.75 billion in December 2004, the deal included the rights to use the I.B.M. name for five years.... Lenovo executives assumed rightly that the I.B.M. brand would still resonate in the United States market and serve to assuage the worries of existing and prospective customers about the I.B.M. ThinkPad line of laptops. Lenovo also realized there would be concern among American customers about buying from a China-based company they had never heard of. Yet Lenovo has moved far more swiftly to remove the I.B.M. name from its brand-building venture than analysts and marketing experts had expected....
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Simon Yates, an analyst who covers the personal computer industry for Forrester Research... said he believed that Lenovo was doing the right thing by distancing itself quickly from I.B.M. "The I.B.M. brand says third- place finisher, high-priced," Mr. Yates said. "Lenovo needs to get rid of the I.B.M. brand quickly because it came with a lot of baggage. It's not appealing to the market they want to grab in the future: small business. The ThinkPad has a reputation for industrial strength and being I.T. friendly, but as an I.B.M. product it was expensive. Now people can get it at close to Dell prices."
[ Go to IBM! ]Glenn Rifkin and Jenna Smith, "Quickly Erasing 'I' and 'B' and 'M'", NYT on the Web, 12Apr06 (Emphasis added). Ed. notes: In the 1960's, the IBM brand was a cultural icon, IBM was a model of capitalism at its best, IBM's motto was not "sell" but: THINK. Someone in IBM Research once said to me in the early 1980's (I quote from imperfect memory): "IBM has so much money it would take 20 years for even the worst management to ruin the company."
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