Alvin Toffler, writing in the book Future Shock in 1970, predicted some of the consequences of what he called "information overload." He thought our defense mechanism would be to simplify the world in ways that confirmed our biases, even as the world itself was growing more diverse and complex.Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), p. 12 (citing Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), p. 362)
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Friday, December 30, 2016
Paradoxically, the result of having so much more shared knowledge [with the spread of printing] was increasing isolation along national and religious lines. The instinctual shortcut that we take when we have "too much information" is to engage with it selectively, picking out the parts we like and ignoring the remainder, making allies with those who have made the same choices and enemies of the rest.
Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), p. 3
Thursday, December 29, 2016
Why do people believe in things that go against natural laws? It cannot simply be ignorance.
The answer is evidence. The number-one reason given by people who believe in the supernatural is personal experience.Bruce M. Hood, The Science of Superstition: How the Developing Brain Creates Supernatural Beliefs (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), p. 3 (former title: SuperSense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable)
Wednesday, December 28, 2016
human judgment is intrinsically fallible. It's hard for any of us (myself included) to recognize how much our relatively narrow range of experience can color our interpretation of evidence.Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't (Penguin Books, 2015) (orig., pub., 2012), Preface (2015)
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave III
Monday, December 26, 2016
"Why do you doubt your senses?"
"Because," said Scrooge, "a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!"
Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means wagging then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre's voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave I
No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o'clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men's dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, "No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!"Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol (1843), Stave I
Saturday, December 17, 2016
Occasional strange cases notwithstanding, every parent gives his or her biological child 50 percent of that child's DNA. And every one of us, regardless of zip code, membership in an executive health program, or religious affiliation, carries at least a handful of harmful mutations that may or may not manifest in us or in our children, should they inherit them as part of that 50 percent.Misha Angrist, Here is a Human Being: At the Dawn of Personal Genomics (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), ch. 1 (Kindle loc. 162)
Saturday, December 10, 2016
During our stay at Maldonado [Uruguay] I collected several quadrupeds, eighty kinds of birds, and many reptiles, including nine species of snakes. Of the indigenous mammalian, the only one now left of any size, which is common, is the Corvus campestris. . . .
The most curious fact with respect to this animal, is the overpoweringly strong and offensive odour which proceeds from the buck. It is quite indescribably: several times whilst skinning the specimen which is now mounted at the Zoological Museum, I was almost overcome by nausea. I tied up the skin in a silk pocket-handkerchief, and so carried it home: this handkerchief, after being well washed, I continually used, and it was of course as repeatedly washed; yet every time, for a space of one year and seven months, when first unfolded, I distinctly perceived the odour. This appears an astonishing instance of the permanence of some matter, which nevertheless in its nature must be most subtitle and volatile. Frequently, when passing at the distance of half a mile to leeward of a herd, I have perceived the whole air tainted with the effluvium.
Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., ch. III, pp. 49-50
Thursday, December 1, 2016
In England any person fond of natural history enjoys in his walks a great advantage, by always having something to attract his attention; but in these fertile climates [near Rio de Janeiro], teeming with life, the attractions are so numerous, that he is scarcely able to walk at all.Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., ch.II, p. 27
Wednesday, November 23, 2016
* * * those two words, "individual liabilities," are the very meanest words in the English language to write, and I suppose I have written them some ten thousand times during the past week. Now when a man is in a hurry, he can make but slow progress if he separates his words—he must string them all together without lifting his pen from the paper, if he would accomplish the least degree of speed. You can't "dot" an i, you know, without taking your pen up, and that inevitably "breaks your gait." If you want to ruin your disposition, write an essay on individual liabilities the next time you are in a special hurry. You will discover that it is easier to write sixteen or eighteen hundred words an hour on any other subject than it is to write thirteen hundred on that. * * * They named the State "Nevada." It is a good enough name, and has no i's in it.Mark Twain, letter to Morning Call (San Francisco) from Carson City, Nov. 14, 1863, published Nov. 19, 1863. Quoted in William C. Miller et al. eds., Reports of the 1863 Constitutional Convention of the Territory of Nevada: As Written for The Territorial Enterprise by Andrew J. Marsh & Samuel L. Clemens and for The Virginia Daily Union by Amos Bowman (Carson City, Nev.: Legislative Counsel Bureau, 1972), p. v.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
"The American people," Dacheekan [campaign strategist] said, "are interested only in little things, not big things. They want to be fat., They want to be happy. That's all they care about, all they know. That's the reality."
"I have been with the people of this country from the Hudson to the Pacific," Freddy said, "and I know that you're wrong. It's people like you, who are no better than your contemptuous description of them, who crank the machinery that dulls their lives, who cater to the worst among them. They are a spiritual people. They want love and greatness. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived among them as you have not. I was taught to listen to the deeper heart, and from one end of this country to the other, I have."Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 463
Wednesday, November 9, 2016
"What about issues?" Dot asked. "What about soccer moms?"
"What about them?" Freddy wanted to know.
"What should he [the presidential candidate] say? What would you have him say?"
"Soccer moms," Freddy said, "spend all day driving around in shapeless vehicles that look like Flash Gordon's bread truck, and their children watch television in the back and ape the superficial characters therein. This is the cause of deep unhappiness, because what they want is so different from what they have, even if they don't realise that this is so. They don't want their children to dress like circus clowns, speak like zombie chipmunks, and behave like programmed machines. They want sons and daughters they can talk to; they want a struggle that they can win but that they are not assured of winning; they want to know physical exhaustion; they want to be sunburned; they want to smell eucalyptus; they want to weep; they want to dance naked for their husbands; they want to feel the wind, see the stars, swim in a river, slam the back door, and laugh uncontrollably with their children. That's what they want. They don't want the crap they have, the crap [President] Self promises, or the crap you would promise if you could figure out what to promise. They want to be free, to have dignity, to know honour and sacrifice. What else does anyone want?"
Dot was stunned into silence, because this was what she wanted too, and had always wanted.Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 463
Tuesday, November 8, 2016
First, the goal of Do Facts Matter? is not to skewer the public or politicians for their ignorance. . . .
. . .
For one thing, it is difficult to define meaningful political ignorance; what people need to know to be effective citizens is not obvious. As the columnist Gene Weingarten (1996) pointed out, 40 percent of adult Americans may be unable to name the vice president but "72 percent of the residents of greater Helena, Mont., were able to identify, on one of those creepy diagrams, every known slice of cow"—and the vice president probably cannot do that. People learn the facts they need to run their lives but do not bother to learn facts that seem valueless in their particular circumstances.Jennifer L. Hochschild & Katherine Levine Einstein, Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics (Norman, Okla.: Univ. Of Oklahoma Press, 2015), ch. 2 (citing Gene Weingarten, "Read It and Veep," Washington Post, Feb. 4, 1996).
Monday, November 7, 2016
[W]e can articulate the central claim of this book": people's unwillingness or inability to use relevant facts in their political choices may be frustrating, but people's willingness to use mistaken factual claims in their voting and public engagement is actually dangerous to a democratic polity.Jennifer L. Hochschild & Katherine Levine Einstein, Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics (Norman, Okla.: Univ. Of Oklahoma Press, 2015), ch. 1.
A 1995 survey asked an unusual battery of questions, focusing on substantive knowledge about the well-being of different groups of Americans. Respondents were asked if African Americans were at least as well off as the average white in six domains—income, housing, education, health care, jobs, and risk of job loss. The empirical evidence on all of these points is clear; the correct answer is no for each.
Many respondents were, however factually mistaken in answering these questions. Roughly three in five whites agreed that African Americans are as well off or better off than whites with regard to their jobs or risk of job loss, access to health care, and education; more than two in five said the same with regard to inc one and housing (only 14-32 percent of African Americans, depending on the arena in question, were similarly misinformed).
Misinformation was systematically associated with a distinctive policy stance. Compared to those with correct information, white respondents who were misinformed on at least one item were more likely to favor a balanced federal budget, cuts in personal income taxes, tax breaks for businesses, limits on abortion, and limits to affirmative action; there was no difference between the two groups on welfare reform and reforming Medicare. Overall, misinformed white respondents supported policies that were racially and fiscally more conservative than were the policy views of the correctly informed.
In short, some Americans hold incorrect "knowledge" that is associated with distinctive involvement with the public arena. We label this third group the "active" or "engaged misinformed." Here, too, the label only begins to identify a group around whom questions swirl: Why do they hold misinformation? Are their mistaken opinions causally linked, in either direction, to their distinctive political and policy views or activities? Can they be taught the facts, and is it worth the effort? How and how much does their activity affect democratic decision making?Jennifer L. Hochschild & Katherine Levine Einstein, Do Facts Matter? Information and Misinformation in American Politics (Norman, Okla.: Univ. Of Oklahoma Press, 2015), ch. 1.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
I was cornet soloist with Gilmore at the age of twenty-four, held the same position with Sousa at twenty-five and did not really know how to play the cornet correctly until I was thirty-five! Since then it has never been a task to play my chosen instrument all day long.Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (BrassMusician.com: 2011) (orig. pub. 1934), Ch. 24
Bryan had shown him his manuscript, "the magnum opus" entitled The Last Bus Driver. "Well," Martin murmured politely when he returned it to Bryan, "it's certainly different. And you can write, there's no doubt about that." And he wasn't lying, Bryan could write, he could take a pen with turquoise ink in it and make big, loopy joined-up handwriting with verbs scattered randomly throughout sentences—sentences that in every comma and exclamation point screamed crazy. But Bryan knew where Martin lived and so he wasn't about to antagonize him.Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 56.
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Every evening since their arrival they had lit a fire and sat in front of the sitting-room hearth with the same kind of devotion that prehistoric people must have afforded flames, except that prehistoric people didn't have Victor's extensive cable package to entertain themselves with.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 113.
Friday, November 4, 2016
[P]olitics are madness, and even if one does not know it, a country in electoral season experiences flares of lunacy like the great storms that sometimes march across the golden surface of the sun.Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 376
Thursday, November 3, 2016
"Before we married, I told you, and you agreed, that though there are many things we can do that most people cannot even dream of doing, there are many more things we cannot do that most people could not dream of doing without."
"Like going to a disco?"
"And walking through Chelsea in daylight, having tea in a hotel, sitting in a park while reading the paper, holding regular employment ent, being unnoticed, not bearing the weight of a thousand years of tradition, et center a. It is indeed awful in they modern sense of they word, and it is wh6y, if I had a choice, I would not be king."Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka (New York: Penguin, 2005), p. 33 (Freddy, the Prince of Wales, speaking with his wife, Fredericka)
"People don't know, and they'll never know, that no collection of things and no human deference can ever make up for not being able to ride home, tired and alone, on the train to Camden Town, and disappear into a block of flats unmatched, in glorious and absolute privacy."Id., p. 54 (Queen Philippa speaking)
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
This spot [near Rio de Janeiro] is notorious from having been, for a long time, the residence of some runaway slaves, who, by cultivating a little ground near the top, contrived to eke out a subsistence. At length they were discovered, and a party of soldiers being sent, the whole were seized with the exception of one old woman, who sooner than again be led into slavery, dashed herself to pieces from the summit of the mountain. In a Roman matron this would have been called the noble love of freedom: in a poor degrees it is mere brutal obstinacy.Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., ch. II, p. 19
Tuesday, November 1, 2016
The cornetist again arose, but this time stepped to the front of the platform, and to my wonderment played the entire solo through for the second time without seeming tired or making a slip. The remarkable thing about his performance was that he played so easily, gracefully; apparently with unconcern, and without any facial muscular contortions or movements. His face did not become purple, distorted, or show any signs of strain. I always had made such hard work in playing even a simple little polka which did not reach G on the first space above, that to watch him play with such perfect ease a number which seemed filled with top "C's" and then end it on the highest note, actually dumfounded me. It was both a revelation and an inspiration!Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 10.
Monday, October 24, 2016
A typical UN meeting would be a two-hour "After Action Review" or "Impact Indicator Breakout Session." We'd play UN Bullshit Bingo, betting packs of cigarettes on how many times these phrases would be said.Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 104.
"I call 'strategic objectives' and 'reach a consensus,'" someone would say on the way to a meeting. "Fine, but I get 'humanitarian architecture' and 'accountability mechanism,'" someone else would say. Another voice would chime in from the back of the Land Cruiser: "I won on 'performance framework' last time—I'm gonna ride that horse again."
Sunday, October 2, 2016
If attributing human qualities to a dog is anthropomorphizing, then what do you call applying canine qualities to a person? Canimorphizing will do for now.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), pp. 158-59.
"If you were a dog, what do you think you would be?" Julia stuffed a large piece of cake into her mouth. "I don't know." Jackson shrugged. " A Labrador maybe?" and they had both, in unison, shouted, "No!" incredulously, as if he were insane even to contemplate being a Labrador. "You are so not a Labrador, Jackson," Julia said, "Labradors are pedestrian."
"Chocolate Labs aren't so bad," Amelia said. "It's the yellow ones that are. . . tedious."
"Chocolate Labradors." Julia laughed. "I always think you should be able to eat them."
"I think Mr. Brodie is an English pointer," Amelia said decisively.
. . .
"I don't think so," Julia said, after having mulled over the dog question (did they ever agree about anything?). "No, not a pointer. And certainly not an English one. Perhaps an Old Danish pointer. . . . But you know, Milly, I think Mr. Brodie is a German shepherd. You can just tell he would drag you out of a burning building or a river in flood. He would save you!"
Saturday, October 1, 2016
What pity that there are not more good amateur orchestras in this country today! Of course, the public school orchestras all over the country are doing a wonderful work, but unfortunately their players are confined wholly to students.Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 1.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
I showered, dined, had a diverting stroll through town [Spa, Belgium], and repaired to a convivial little bar on the Rue Royals for an evening with Martin Gilbert's grave and monumental history of the Second World War. It is not a pub book, I can tell you now. You read a little and before long you find yourself staring vacantly around you and longing for a conversation.Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (New York: HarperCollins e-books) (orig. pub. 1993), ch. 6, p. 53.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The young adults from working-class and poor families shared their parents' hazy understanding of college. The youths had hope and ambition, but their knowledge of higher education systems and the pathways through which they might gain additional training and then transition into attractive jobs was imprecise at best.Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13
Monday, September 19, 2016
The often-repeated description of the stately palm and other noble tropical plants, then birds, and lastly man, taking possession of the coral islets as soon as formed, in the Pacific, is probably not quite correct; I fear it destroys the poetry of this story, that feather and dirt-feeding and parasitic insects and spiders should be the first inhabitants of newly formed oceanic land.
Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., I, p. 9
Sunday, September 18, 2016
"I am very much against rushing to judgment. Who am I to judge a book by its cover? You're an author, Dan, you should know what I'm talking about. How would you like it if everyone judged your books by their covers?"Daniel Asa Rose, Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant—and Save His Life (New York: HarperCollins e-Books, 2009), loc. 629
"But don't you wish they didn't?"
I know there's got to be an answer to this, but for the life of me I can't figure out what it is.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
[N]othing can be more improving to a young naturalist than a journey in distant countries. It both sharpens and partly allays that want and craving, which . . . A man experiences although every corporeal sense be fully satisfied. The excitement from the novelty of objects, and the chance of success, stimulate him to increased activity. Moreover, as a number of isolated facts soon become uninteresting, the habit of comparison leads to generalisation. On the other hand, as the traveler stays but a short time in each place, his descriptions must generally consist of mere sketches, instead of detailed observations. Hence arises, as I have found to m y cost, a constant tendency to fill up the wide gaps of knowledge by inaccurate and superficial hypotheses.Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., ch. XXI, p. 536
But I have too deeply enjoyed the voyage, not to recommend any naturalist, although he must not expect to be so fortunate in his companions as I have been, to take all chances, and to start, on travels by land if possible, if otherwise, on a long voyage.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected check in the mail, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homey restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city.Bill Bryson, Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (New York: HarperCollins e-books) (orig. pub. 1993), ch. 10, p. 96. (This particular city was Copenhagen. Later in the book, Bryson has arrivals in new cities that are less convivial, due to rotten weather, difficulty finding a hotel, boring streets, or other factors.)
Thursday, September 15, 2016
I arrive at the waltzing terrace. There they are, the former Red Guards, waltzing in trim little circles around the colored fountains, round and round. But tonight they're not frightening, these former cannibals and rapists and butchers; they're judge unfortunates, doing the best they can to salvage what's left of their lives. Wasn't that always what they were, unfortunate pawns of generals and tyrants? Given the right circumstances, couldn't we American student protesters of that era have been manipulated into becoming monsters ourselves? Seeing them tonight, I imagine they're dancing no it in celebration of their misdeeds but in shame for how they were duped into ruining so many lives. They're waltzing round and round to atone for their sins, the way dirty water can cleanse itself by recirculating.Daniel Asa Rose, Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant—and Save His Life (New York: HarperCollins e-Books, 2009), loc. 4845. (The author knows nothing about the individuals he has seen dancing: he has just speculated that they are the generation that was young during the Cultural Revolution and so could have been Red Guards.)
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
There was a gap between what her ear heard and what her fingers could manage, and she found this maddening, but each week that gap seemed to narrow just a little. The sounds she made were on their way to beautiful. Her hands were learning to make a wooden body sing.Carolina de Robertis, The Gods of Tango (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p. 119
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
People don't know what to say to others who are grieving. They fear upsetting them, they don't know how to behave. But as my family learned, people who are grieving are desperate for support, for connection. It's always better to reach out to someone and just say simply, "I'm sorry," to let them know you're thinking about them, to give them a hug, and feel assured that that alone is enough.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 42.
Monday, September 12, 2016
In lumping into a single unit nurses in two different schools . . . , Wendy's mother demonstrates a common tendency among working-class and poor parents to merge authority figures into one indiscriminate group. Thus, classroom teachers, resource teachers, librarians, and principals are usually all referred to as "the school."Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch.10
Sunday, September 11, 2016
It is excusable to grow enthusiastic over the infinite numbers of organic beings with which the sea of the tropics, so prodigal of life, teems; yet I must confess I think those naturalists who have described, in well-known words, the submarine grottoes decked with a thousand beauties, have indulged in rather exuberant language.Charles Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle (London: John Murray, 1913 reprint ed., ch. XX, p. 487
Saturday, September 10, 2016
The countryside would have been pretty if it hadn't been sulking under grey skies and moisture-laden air. The weather couldn't make up its mind so it stayed in limbo—one of those classic English days that just sits there and, imitating a lot of people, irritates you with its indecision and grey apathy.Marie Browne, Narrow Margins (Mid-Glamorgan: Accent Press, 2009), p.
Thursday, September 8, 2016
There was a small room at the top of the house, overlooking the garden, that Martin earmarked as a study. He felt it was the kind of room where he would be able to write something with strength and character, not the trite and formulaic Nina Riley but a text in which every page was a creative dialectic between passion and reason, a thing of life-changing artistry. Disappointingly, not only did this not happen but all the life he had sensed in the house disappeared after he purchased it.Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 53.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Incompletely or incorrectly understanding the terminology professionals favor was a common problem among parents in the working-class and poor families we observed. It is one of many elements that contribute to these parents' tendency to defer to, or at least silently accept, the pronouncements of professionals such as teachers and health-care providers.Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch.10
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
How many of my readers remember the Presidential Campaign of 1876? I recall the torchlight processions of both political parties prior to the election; the bugle corps, fife and drum corps and bands of all kinds marching with and playing for hundreds of men some carrying banners with campaign slogans; all bearing torches or wearing caps holding torches, and draped in multi-colored capes. I would lie awake at night listening to bands playing with them.Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 2. (Clarke turned nine in September 1876.)
It was a presidential election year, with the campaign of 1884 just approaching.Id., ch. 11.
Back in those times all bands were in great demand for torchlight processions in Indianapolis, the same as in other cities, and as brother Ern had become a pretty good trombone player . . ., he began getting acquainted with the different musicians with an eye to business. One day he came home and told me he had an engagement for that night to play with Biessenhertz's Band in a Republican Club parade.
. . .
We made the first parade and were immediately engaged by the Democratic contingent for the following night, after which we seemed to alternate every successive night between the two political parties. This kept the band business might good up to election day, as almost every night there was a rally of some sort.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
With every immigrant she passed she longed to stop and stare into his or her face and ask with nothing but her gaze And you? What are you here for? Why did you come?, as though just looking at them might unlatch the trapdoors to their hidden stories. And the stories would be infinite, no two alike, burning with hope and loss and vigorous despair, told in more dialects than even God could possibly speak, and yet, she suddenly saw, it was possible that somewhere beneath the surface all their hidden stories held the same thread, a single hum of longing, I came to live. Surely this was true of all of them, including her.Carolina de Robertis, The Gods of Tango (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), p. 100
Thursday, September 1, 2016
Of all the animals commonly eaten by humans, the pig is the only one that will return the favor.Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (New York: Basic Books, 2015), Prologue
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
In short order we had seventeen new study sites, including business centers, multifamily housing units, and additional forest reserves. Don [Norman] began to survey these sites using the same point count techniques my students and I used in nearby residential and reserve areas.John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), p. 98
. . . When Don finished the summer's work, he reported rather sheepishly that a keen birder could expect to see equal numbers of species in forests of the Cascade Mountains and in Seattle's industrial heart. Though not as rich as residential subirdia, the three forests surveyed yielded an average of twenty-nine species, whereas the twelve business sites averaged thirty-one species. In fact, one-third of the business sites equaled or exceeded the diversity Don observed in the richest forest reserve.
Saturday, August 27, 2016
The same quality that makes feral pigs a problem—prodigious fecundity—has delighted farmers. Cows, goats, and sheep provide milk, a bountiful and consistent source of protein. Oxen pull plows and carts, and sheep are shorn for wool. Pigs do not pull plows; they give no milk and grow no wool. Pigs produce only one thing: more pigs. Many, many more pigs.Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (New York: Basic Books, 2015), Prologue
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Today 15 percent of all college students take a single course in history. Or, that is to say, 85 percent of them don't take one. And I think if you have a nation that doesn't have a sense of history, when they set out to send an army into a Middle Eastern country, and someone assures them they will be greeted as liberators, and flowers will be strewn in their path, they may not ask the question, "Are we really sure that's true?" And I think that's dangerous for our nation and for our world.Victor Ferrall (former president of Beloit College, author of Liberal Arts at the Brink), in "Who Needs an English Major?," AmericanRadioworks documentary produced by Stephen Smith (fall 2011)
Monday, August 15, 2016
Middle-class parents, especially the mothers, appeared to embrace the idea that it was their responsibility to carefully manage every step of their children's transition to college. They gathered information, reminded their adolescents to sign up for tests, and watched for potential problems. By contrast, although working-class parents considered themselves as being involved and helpful, what they meant by being helpful seems different from what middle-class parents meant. Working-class and poor parents did not appear to see continuous monitoring as critically important. . . . With the exception of the financial costs involved, these parents generally knew little about the transition from high school to college. Their awareness of their child's SAT scores, the names of colleges the child visited, and the relative ranking of colleges was strikingly vague compared to that of middle-class parents. . . . Both parents and children in working-class and poor families considered post-adolescent children "grown." By contrast, in middle-class families, the young adults seemed to still rely heavily on their parents and, in crucial ways, the parents often continued to treat them as children.Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13
Sunday, August 14, 2016
The poor are priced out of housing in Cambridge (just as in Seattle, Silicon Valley, and plenty of other places)
Nowadays even houses houses that were back-to-backs with their front doors opening straight onto the street went for a fortune in the area. The poor moved out to the likes of Milton and Cherry Hinton, but now even the council estates there had been colonized by middle-class university types . . ., which must really piss the poor people off. The poor might always be with us, but Jackson was puzzled as to where they actually lived these days.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 64.
Friday, August 12, 2016
While I was doing my interviews [of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone], I had asked a few children what they thought of the Special Court, if the ones living far from Freetown even knew of it. One boy, not even thirteen at the time I met him, put it best: "For some of us, our lives were miserable, they trained us to come up in a bad way. By trying them, it shows people that if you do bad, there will be consequences."Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 298.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
After hearing so many stories of pain and anguish from civilians [in Sierra Leone], I didn't understand how people—my friends—could defend the perpetrators. "Look, this whole international criminal tribunal thing would be a circus if there wasn't a good defense," my American friend Scott said. . . .Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), pp. 279-80.
"Everyone—even a war criminal, Jess—has a right to a fair trial. The prosecution would have a field day with these guys if we didn't hold them to some standard. They might very well have been war criminals, but it was for particular acts at particular times. They didn't do everything in all places at all times, which is what the prosecution is throwing at them."
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
Even today, despite the increasing importance of dogs in our lives, books about them are invariably dismissed as sentimental and lighthearted, lucrative but simplistic, the lowest form of literature. . . . Why can't we let ourselves take dog love seriously? Is it because, if we did, we'd have to think seriously about other nonhuman animals, including those on our dinner plates? One way to keep these anxieties at a distance is to make fun of people who've got their pets out of all proportion; this is how we can restore the balance, reassuring ourselves that of course although some people take their feelings for dogs too far, we know dog love isn't "real love" (if it were, what would stop us from choosing dogs over people?).Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 4.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
I thought about my own children and the world they were in now—how they rarely went outside; rarely rode their bikes. What happened? I wondered. What happened to my generation? How had we been the kids with so much freedom, who then grew up to deny this freedom to our own children? This adventure. This sense of discovery and danger and risk and recovery.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 32.
And yet, when I looked at the Sunday Tampa Tribune [from] the morning Jon disappeared, I was struck by what I saw.Id., ch. 34.
An article headlined "What Are Our Children Missing?" opened with a quote from a local art teacher and mother of two. "Children today have been shortchanged," she told the reporter. "When I was young, we could wander in the woods, we could breathe and run free."
She and other parents didn't think that life in the early seventies wasn't as adventurous as it seemed.Kids were getting overscheduled, they believed, confined by a regimen of after-school activities that was curtailing their independence and exploration.
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
Letters were my apprenticeship: I used them as my commonplace book, as tryouts for characters, to get a purchase on what mattered to me and how I might articulate what mattered. I wrote weather reports and geography lessons, how snow touched the black waters of the Bosporus, how the sun bore down on Lindos, what a ninth consecutive day of rain did to Vienna. Hundreds of these letters, most unanswered. What was the recipient to say? This was not correspondence (as my amused brother now realizes); these were finger exercises, and just about as welcome to my audience as a sixth, ninth, fifteenth run-through of "Heartaches" by a first-year student of the tenor sax.Geoffrey Wolff, A Day at the Beach: Recollections, 2d ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), p.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
I was skeptical of all faiths, save bookishness; I was bone-idle, except around books. Around books I worked like a Turk, reading with a pencil in my hand, reading three or four things at a clip. I had read headlong and helter-skelter since I'd plowed as a kid through Albert Payson Terhune simultaneously with the Hardy Boys. To read compulsively and to write about reading were my only appetites (of too many appetites) sanctioned as virtues rather than condemned as vices.Geoffrey Wolff, A Day at the Beach: Recollections, 2d ed. (New York: Vintage Books, 2013), p. 7.
Monday, July 25, 2016
Nearly every society has placed a high value on meat. . . . Although humans can satisfy all their nutritional needs by eating plants, most of us prefer not to. Instead, we feed plants to animals and then eat the animals, and we do not seem to mind that this process is costly and complicated. People have fought wars, conquered lands, destroyed landscapes, and exchanged great wealth to satisfy their deep hunger for meat. When it is scarce—and in large societies meat has been scarce until recent times—only the wealthiest eat it. When poor people begin to earn a bit more money, they spend it on meat. "Those who could, gorged themselves," one historian has written of early modern Europe. "Those who couldn't, aimed to."Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (New York: Basic Books, 2015), Prologue (quoting Eugen Weber, A Modern History of Europe (New York: Norton, 1971), p. 202)
Sunday, July 24, 2016
The economic distortions that aid caused went beyond the discrepancy in living conditions. Suddenly, productive and educated members of the workforce were being snatched up by NGOs. I met a local judge who was now working as a driver for an NGO because his new job paid him twice what his old one did. School principals worked as administrative assistants for international agencies. One day in Sri Lanka, I arrived at a temporary school to monitor a teacher training session with Arjun, my translator . . . . [T]he student spilled out of the classroom and flocked to greet him. "I used to teach at this school," he explained.
. . . A job at an NGO—almost always the biggest employer in town—was a lucrative position for a person who lived there, and we poached some of the best and brightest right out of the very civil society we were trying to support, luring them into what were essentially temporary positions. We weren't going to be here forever, and when we were gone the jobs would be, too.Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), pp. 234-35.
Saturday, July 23, 2016
The amount of money donated to the tsunami was also disproportionate to what the rest of the country had. The needs outside of the affected areas were great, too; in both Indonesia and Sri Lanka, conflicts had been brewing long before December 26, 2004. . . .
After the tsunami, donors earmarked funding specifically for tsunami programming. Some of the camps for tsunami victims that I visited were replete with flushing toilets, regular electricity, and hardwood floors. A few meters away were the camps where people displaced by the enduring domestic conflicts had been living. Their age showed: the tents were tattered, the alleyways lined with sewage, the latrines daunting, odiferous cesspools.
"We've been getting complaints. It's really causing a lot of problems," one of the local leders explained to me. . . . "People from the conflict camp are asking, 'Why can't we have what they are getting? Because we didn't lose our house in the tsunami? We we lost our house long ago!'"Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 232-34.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Our only god was Fred Astaire. He was everything we wanted to be: smooth, suave, debonair, dapper, intelligent, adult, witty, and wise. We saw his pictures over and over, played his records until they were gray and blurred, dressed as much like him as we dared. When any crises came into our young lives, we asked ourselves what Fred Astaire would do and we did likewise. We though we were hot stuff but we were very young in those days.Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (New York: Broadway Books, 2001), pp. 160 (orig. pub. 1955)
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Like wild animals raised in captivity who never develop their inborn potential to hunt for themselves, children who are robbed of the opportunity to come up with their own games and entertain themselves at those times in their lives when these capacities are developing may very well become dependent upon others to determine their good times.Dana Chidekel, Parents in Charge: Setting Healthy, Loving Boundaries for You and Your Child (New York: Citadel Press Books, 2002), pp. 94-95, quoted in Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 12, note 40.
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Once malpractice cases go to trial, only about 2 to 5 percent result in verdicts against physicians . . . .James B. Lieber, Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America's Third Largest Cause of Death, and What Can Be Done About It (New York: OR Books, 2015), Introduction.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
It was too much the way of Monseigneur under his reverses as a refugee, and it was much too much the way of native British orthodoxy, to talk of this terrible Revolution as if it were the only harvest ever known under the skies that had not been sown—as if nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it—as if observers of the wretched millions in France, and of the misused and perverted resources that should have made them prosperous, had not seen it inevitably coming, years before, and had not in plain words recorded what they saw.Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book the Second, ch. XXIV
Monday, July 11, 2016
As the first edition of the book notes, the middle-class parents appeared to see organized activities as filled with "teachable moments" that helped cultivate their children's talents. As young adults, most of the middle-class kids articulated a similar perspective, readily linking their past activities to enduring life benefits. Working-class and poor parents who enrolled their children in activities generally did so to provide a safe form of entertainment—"something to do." As young adults, these kids sounded much like their parents, describing their organized activities as a diversion without long-lasting importance.Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Four years later, the [Sudanese] government kicked out thirteen Western aid groups in retaliation for the International Criminal Court's decision to issue a warrant for the arrest of President Al-Bashir on charges of war crimes. Did the roof that we fixed on the school in block D16 [of the refugee camp] even matter now? Did the covers we put on the latrines to stop the flies mean anything anymore? They were fine solutions to stop the immediate problems, but this war was much bigger than me, than the agency that I worked for, than the countless humanitarian workers running around providing bars of soap. The country needed a government that didn't terrorize its own population, one that was committed to peace and didn't back a militia that ran people off their land. And without this, without a government that worked with the aid community, not against it, our programs could only be short-term solutions.Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 218.
Sunday, July 3, 2016
[W]hile Ball limited how far his own children could go after this tragedy, he already sensed that that fear was coming at a price. Despite the horror of what happened to our family, he knew, children were more likely to die from an accident inside the home than to get abducted and killed. "That's where the danger is," he told me, "but that's not where danger is in the minds of the parents."David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 41.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Dogs make very handy transitional objects because we can use them as outlets for all kinds of different emotions. In my case, Grisby forms a bridge between my inner life and the "real world" out there, toward which I'm increasingly ambivalent. On the one hand, I want to function successfully as an adult in the wider world; on the other hand, I want to stay at home, regress to infancy, and keep the outside world at bay. It's always easier to make this difficult transition with a friendly bulldog by my side.Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 7.
Friday, July 1, 2016
"But why didn't you tell me you were coming today? I'd never have been giving this party."Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (New York: Broadway Books, 2001), pp. 13-14 (orig. pub. 1955)
"Mum, I wired you . . ."
"Yes, but you said July first. Tomorrow. This is the thirty-first of June."
Norah shook her head balefully. "No, mum, 'tis the first, God curse the evil day."
The tinselly laugh rang out, "But that's ridiculous! Everyone knows 'Thirty days hath September, April, June and . . .' My God!" There was a moment's silence. "But darling," she said dramatically, "I'm your Auntie Mame!" She put her arms around me and kissed me, and I knew I was safe.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
The same overflowing fishbowl of agencies traveled from one disaster to another. It felt oddly similar to the Greek system in college—there were the "good" agencies, the "exclusive" agencies, the agencies that kept to themselves, and the ones that threw big parties; the rich agencies with their fancy compounds, air-conditioned bedrooms, regular Internet access, and dozens of white Land Cruisers parked in their lots. Each agency had a reputation and a place somewhere in the industry hierarchy. But the pecking order varied from country to country. Just as SigEp could be cool at WashU but lame at Michigan, so, too, could Save the Children be great in Darfur, but terrible in Aceh. It really just depended on who was there.Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 105.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
The primary languages spoken in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony, are French and the local language, Kinyarwanda. Although English was made the third official language in 1996, most people didn't speak it. My French vocabulary consisted of "merci," "merci beaucoup," and "voulez-vous coucher avec moi." The French phrase book I brought was of no help either. I ruffled through it on the flight, but "I'll have the fondue" was meant for someone going on a glamorous Swiss holiday. There was no translation for "The goat stew is full of gristle. I am unable to eat it." The index unhelpfully had no entry for "explosive diarrhea" or "convulsive vomiting."Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 23.
Saturday, June 25, 2016
For all of Auntie Mame's talk about her book, I'd never read a word of Buffalo Gal, subtitled The Personal History of a Modern George Sand, nor had anyone else. But around November a thick bundle of manuscript arrived. . . . No one could deny that Auntie Mame's was a big book. It ran just shy of nine hundred typewritten pages, but no matter how much you loved her you could never say it was good. Although Auntie Mame was a fascinating talker, knew a lot of interesting people, and had excellent taste in her own reading, her prose style was that of a gifted amateur—a bit too florid, a bit too irresponsible, and often unconsciously funny. She had also been too scrupulous a reporter and told much more than was absolutely necessary about some of her dearest friends.
Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (New York: Broadway Books, 2001), p. 100 (orig. pub. 1955)
Friday, June 24, 2016
As with so many other things that are plainly obvious to most people, I had to be told that annoyances were to be expected and tolerated in any relationship, and especially so in a marriage. Though I may not have realized that on my own, once it was explained to me, I understood exactly what it meant. Kristen put it this way: "You hog the blankets, Dave. You take months deciding which computer to buy. The instant we all pile into the car and shut the doors, you fart. That stuff is so annoying, and so not a problem."David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (New York: Scribner, 2012), pp. 218-19.
What was a problem, she explained, was beating myself up over every little thing and creating drama that nobody needed. . . .
"So, let me get this straight," I said. "Even if I'm not flawless and I annoy you sometimes, you can still love me and be happy?"
"Yes! Exactly, Dave! That's what love is. That's what marriage is. That's what we have! Isn't that great news?"
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Then she asked me if I knew why I was perfect for her, and I drew a blank. "Is it because you have to tell me how to function like a normal person?" I asked. What girl doesn't love that?David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (New York: Scribner, 2012), p. 139.
"No. It's because I know you'd do anything for me, you get me, and you make me laugh, which makes me happy."
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
[W]hile our experience of death was unique, the experience of grieving, of living with grief, of living with death, was universal. I was isolated by my grief for many reasons—my age, the circumstances, the mystery—but I had come to see how everyone is isolated by grief; how grief sends you spiraling inside yourself and how only you can find a way out. And the way out, as my parents discovered, was by finding support and community in other people.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 33.
Monday, June 20, 2016
Among the perils of city life that birds and other animals share, the most uniformly serious one is the domestic cat that ventures out-of-doors. . . . [I]n the United States . . . cats kill 6.9 to 20.7 billion small mammals each year. Suddenly the slaughter of more than three hundred million vertebrates—birds, herps, and mammals—on U.S. roads seems tiny. Cats eat at least an order of magnitude more animals than we run over with our cars each year. And it is mostly a different set of animals that cats eat; Fluffy doesn't eat many deer or salamanders, but she really tears up the mice, birds, and small reptiles.John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), p.
Saturday, June 18, 2016
If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped change. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.J.K. Rowling, commencement address, "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination," Harvard University, June 2008
Friday, June 17, 2016
I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all the subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.
I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.J.K. Rowling, commencement address, "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination," Harvard University, June 2008
Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Wings allow birds to avoid massive road mortality that culls the urban herd of mammals and herps. . . . The full magnitude of roadkill is difficult to estimate, but collisions with large animals are certainly on the rise. In a 2008 report to Congress, the Western Transportation Institute noted that in 2004, one in twenty reported vehicle collisions in the United States—some three hundred thousand—involved wildlife, most likely deer. These collisions annually kill two hundred Americans and injure twenty-six thousand, at an estimated cost of more than $8 billion. The cost to wildlife is also extreme. In the United States, between half a million and one million deer are killed each year, and twenty-one species of vertebrates are federally endangered in part because of road mortality; only three are birds. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than three hundred million vertebrates die annually in vehicle collisions. Worldwide, the annual death toll is staggering . . . .John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), pp. 170-71.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Jackson could remember when he was a kid and retired men were the old guys who tottered between the allotment and the corner of the pub. They had seemed like really old guys but maybe they weren't much older than he was now. Jackson was forty-five but felt much, much older. He was at that dangerous age when men suddenly notice that they're going to die eventually, inevitably, and there isn't a damn thing they can do about it, but that doesn't stop them from trying, whether it's shagging anything that moves or listening to early Bruce Springsteen and buying a top-of-the-range motorbike (a BMW K 1200 LT usually, thus considerably upping their chances of meeting death even earlier than anticipated). Then there were the guys who found themselves in the rut of routine alcoholic tedium—the lost and lonesome highway of your average beta male (his father's way). And then there was Jackson's own chosen path that led to the everyday Zen of a French house with its white stucco walls, geraniums in pots on the windowsills, a blue door, the paint peeling because who gives a damn about house maintenance in rural France?Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 75.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Despite signs that the middle-class youth had benefited in critical ways from the social class position of their parents, these young adults appeared largely unaware of the advantages that had been bestowed upon them. Instead, they stressed how hard they had worked, implying that they thought they had earned on their own the position of privilege they held. Also, they were very focused on their own neighborhood or school. They seemed unaware that there were youth living less than an hour away who had very different lives. Although the degree to which the middle-class youths' life paths had been structured by their class position was not clear to them, in contrast, the working-class and poor youth and their families were keenly aware of neighborhoods where life was different.
. . .Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13
Although they were vaguely aware of their resource-rich family backgrounds, the middle-class young adults in theis study did not attribute any of their success to the pure luck of having been born into an advantaged class. Instead, they focused on their own hard work and individual achievement. They could not see the social class privileges that were facilitating their success, every step of the way. Not surprisingly, they mistakenly thought that what was hidden did not exist.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Jackson was forty-seven and in good health, but he had seen a lot of people die when they weren't planning to and had no reason to think it wouldn't happen to him. There were some things you could control and some things you couldn't. The paperwork, as they said, you could control.Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 36.
Wednesday, June 8, 2016
We were riding the wild carousel of early parenthood: the donkey rides and cotton candy, the face painting and sand art. . . . Life had transformed from dive bars and Dead shows to Chuck E. Cheese's and the Wiggles.
. . . [W]e embraced the joyful chaos. As we pushed our overstuffed strollers around the suburban fair, sticky sippy cups and ragged baby dolls spilling from our arms, we did so with the harried insanity and good-humored amazement that every new parent knows.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 28.
Sunday, June 5, 2016
Gloria's parents led drab, listless lives that the wearing of pearl-and-gilt earrings and the reading of detective novels did little to enliven. Gloria presumed her life would be quite different–that glorious things would happen to her (as her name implied), that she would be illuminated within and without and her path would scorch like a comet's. This did not happen!Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2006), p. 24.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
Language does this to our memories—simplified, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces to moment it was meant to capture.Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group): 2013), p. 48.
Friday, June 3, 2016
She seemed very distracted, even mildly deranged, but, living in Cambridge, Jackson had got used to university types, although she said she lived in "Oxford, not Cambridge. It's a completely different place," and Jackson had though, "Yeah, right," but said nothing.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 64.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
Swimming timelessly, without fear or fret, relaxed me and got my brain going. Thoughts and images, sometimes whole paragraphs, would start to swim through my mind, and I had to land every so often to pour them onto a yellow pad I kept on a picnic table by the side of the lake. I had such a sense of urgency sometimes that I did not have time to dry myself but rushed wet and dripping to the pad.Oliver Sacks, On the Move: A Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015)
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Instead of being dusk, six o'clock had the look of mid-afternoon in these fabulously long days of early northern summer when it stayed light until eleven. Staying out as the day pushed toward midnight was like playing hooky from the regular rules of clocks.
Carol Anshaw, Carry the One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p. 102. (This scene is in Amsterdam.)
Carol Anshaw, Carry the One (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p. 102. (This scene is in Amsterdam.)
Monday, May 30, 2016
Let me advise you to pursue the same course through life, recollecting that, even as practitioners, you must still be students. Knowledge is endless, and the most experienced person will find that he has still much to learn.Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, speech to students at St. George's Hospital, London, in 1850, quoted in Bill Hayes, The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008), ch. 5 (citing The Works of Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, vol. 1 (London: Longman et al., 1865)).
My father was himself a college professor and a pedant to the bone. Every exchange contained a lesson, like the pit in a cherry. To this day, the Socratic method makes me want to bite someone.Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group): 2013), p. 6.
Sunday, May 29, 2016
From the window she could see the beginnings of her vegetable garden, neat drills of turned soil and geometric shapes marked out with pea sticks and string. Keith didn't understand why she had started a vegetable garden. "We're living on a bloody farm," he said, stretching his arms out expansively so he looked like a scarecrow—they were in a field at the time—the place is full of vegetables. We're allowed to take whatever we want." No, actually, the place was full of potatoes, which was different. And swede and kale—cattle food, peasant food. Michelle wanted courgettes and spinach and beetroot. And coriander.Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 59.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Kids grow up hearing fairy tales, but the biggest fairy tale of all, I realized at the age of four, is that life is safe. Life isn't safe, I learned. It's crazy. Evil is real. One minute you could be riding your bike on the way to get candy, and the next, you're dead. Anything could happen anywhere at the time. So now what? How was I supposed to live without giving in to the fear?David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 18.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
When Victor proposed to her fourteen years ago, Rosemary had no idea what being the wife of a college lecturer would entail, but she had imagined it would involve wearing what her mother called "day dresses" and going to garden parties on the Backs and strolling elegantly across the plush green of the courts while people murmured, "That's the famous Victor Land's wife. He would be nothing without her, you know."Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2004), p. 34.
And, of course, the life of a lecturer's wife had turned out to be nothing like she had imagined. There were no garden parties on the Backs, and there was certainly no elegant strolling across the college courts, where the grass was afforded the kind of veneration usually associated with religious artifacts. Not long after she was first married she had been invited to join Victor in the Master's garden, where it soon grew apparent that Victor's colleagues were of the opinion that he had married (horribly) beneath him . . . . But one thing was true—Victor would be nothing without her, but he was also nothing with her.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
We were a public family, and Jon's murder was a part of the community. This wasn't the same for the other deaths, I realized. No one knew the story of my dad's father, Abraham, when my dad said Kaddish for him. But when my family stood for Jon, they saw the emptiness that was there, the missing person in our family who never returned.David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 16.
Sunday, May 22, 2016
For most of the twentieth century, Americans lived in a Norman Rockwell, Marcus Welby haze about medicine. Doctors were wise and respected. Hospitals were though to be clean, quiet, safe, and well-equipped, well-intentioned charitable organizations. No one expected to be the victim of an error.James B. Lieber, Killer Care: How Medical Error Became America's Third Largest Cause of Death, and What Can Be Done About It (New York: OR Books, 2015), Introduction.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
In their studies of Czech history, my father and his colleagues discerned two opposing dimensions: the fighters, such as Žižka, and the scholars. Foremost among the latter was Jan Ámos Komenský, best remembered for his writings while in exile. The bishop of the Hus-inspired Unity of Czech Brethren, Komenský was among those forced to flee in the aftermath of the Battle of White Mountain . He survived by eating nuts and escaped pursuers by hiding in the trunk of a linden tree.Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), pp. 40-41.
. . .Komenský soon proved himself to be an educator of astonishing humanity and vision. . . . [H]e stressed universal literacy and access to free schools for girls and boys alike. He pioneered role playing in contrast to rote teaching methods, invented the illustrated children's book, and wrote an essay on language that was reportedly used by Native American students at Harvard. . . . Although religious martyrs and warrior generals have places in my personal pantheon, Komenský is the early thinker whom I most admire.
Friday, May 20, 2016
It is astounding how many beginners on musical instruments are allowed to become careless, they themselves not realizing what it means or how much work will have to be undone and done over later in life. To me this negligence in the case of a beginner in music is the same as that of a child who when beginning the study of the multiplication table is permitted to guess of results, such as two times two equals six, or seven times six equals sixteen, and so on.Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 2.
The very first "guess" should be corrected and reasons explained; the child should be made to understand why twice two equals four. I classify all uncorrected errors as "microbes" which, although invisible to the naked eye, are deadly—even more deadly than an animal as big as an elephant.
One can run away or hide from or dodge an elephant, but not so with a microbe. These minute organisms multiply rapidly and in large number if not immediately drive out of the system.
Thursday, May 19, 2016
When we were dating, everything felt perfect, yes, but then again I hadn't expected Kristen to come over and do my laundry, cook all my meals, and dust underneath my bed. A girlfriend didn't do those things, per my definition. Kristen never led me to believe that she was Susie Homemaker, yet I had assumed that a wholesale shift in her priorities would come with time, marriage, and kids. . . .David Finch, The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband (New York: Scribner, 2012), pp. 137-38.
More interesting still were the insights about myself that resulted from a month and a half of feverish journaling. For one, I quickly realized that I had no business holding Kristen to any standard of homemaking because I had clearly failed to deliver any sense of normalcy myself. . . . Kristen is no June Cleaver, I wrote. But then, I'm no Ward. So if she's not June, and I'm not Ward, how can I expect us to be all Ward-and-June-Cleaver like my parents . . . ?
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Born in 1372, [Jan] Hus launched his career modestly enough, as an expert in spelling. Short and plump, he developed into a popular preacher and, in 1409, was named rector of Charles University. The Czech motto, "Truth shall prevail," derives from Hus's refusal to accept fully the authority of the Church. . . .Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), pp. 33, 35-36.
In 1415, when Catholic leaders assembled in the German city of Constance, the fate of Jan Hus was on their agenda. . . . When confronted by his accusers, he refused to recant, prompting the Church delegates to condemn him. The prisoner was stripped of his vestments, shorn of his hair, crowned with a paper hat bearing three images of the devil, and burned at the stake. Not wanting to leave relics, his executioners took care to incinerate every part of his body and all articles of clothing. This scheme to erase memory, however, had precisely the opposite effect.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
European historians and philosophers had contended that black Africans were illiterates with no history, but Timbuktu's manuscripts proved the opposite—that a sophisticated, freethinking society had thrived south of the Sahara at a time when much of Europe was still mired in the Middle Ages. That culture had been driven underground during the Moroccan conquest of Timbuktu in 1591, then had flourished in the eighteenth century, only to vanish again during seventy years of French colonization.Joshua Hammer, The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 1.
Monday, May 16, 2016
Of all seven continents, Africa is believed to be most affected by climate change. Poverty, overfarming, overgrazing, deforestation, and increasingly erratic weather patterns all contribute to the conservative prediction that, if the world's temperature rises as little as two degrees by 2100, as many as 250 million Africans will be left without adequate drinking water. In Africa and Asia, the band along the tenth parallelis one of the most ecologically precarious in the world. Here, the inexorable southward spread of North Africa's desert, which occurs in Nigeria at an estimated rate of between a quarter and a half mile each year, meets unpredictable rains in the transition zone from Africa's dry north to its wet south.Eliza Griswold, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), p. 39.
Sunday, May 15, 2016
We cannot remove the pain of loss. Death—whether of patients or of loved ones—will always be difficult. We can create reforms, we can institute policy changes, and we can even write books. But our professional fear and aversion to dying is the most difficult—and most fundamentally human—obstacle in changing end-of-life care. Our grief is the price we pay for caring for the terminally ill, and our aversion is the weight that anchors our inertia and denia.Pauline W. Chen, Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflections on Mortality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), Epilogue
The tenth parallel is the horizontal band that rings the earth seven hundred miles north of the equator If Africa is shaped like a rumpled sock, with South Africa at the toe and Somalia at the heel, then the tenth parallel runs across the ankle. Along the tenth parallel, in Sudan, and in most of inland Africa, two world collide: the mostly Muslim, Arab-influenced north meets a black African south inhabited by Christians and those who follow indigenous religions—which include those who venerate ancestors and the spirits of animals, land, and sky.Eliza Griswold, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), p. 3
To the east, five thousand miles off the Africn coast and over the Indian Ocean, natural forces also shaped the encounter of Christianity and Islam in the Southeast Asian nations of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The trade winds—high-pressure air currents that move steadily from either pole toward the equator—filled the sails of both Muslim and Christian merchants from the northern hemisphere beginning in the eighth century.Id., p. 8.
Thursday, May 12, 2016
Think of it: pig drives! Like cattle dries, only stranger! Who knew a pig could walk that far or would travel in the desired direction? . . .Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (New York: Basic Books, 2015), Prologue
A few farmers from Lexington, Kentucky, walked their hogs through the Cumberland Gap and all the way to Charleston, South Caolina, distance of more than five hundred miles.Id., ch. 12.
. . .
Because droving was a decentralized trade, it's impossible to know its full scale. It is clear, however, that hog drives were at least as significant as the more celebrated cattle drives. The largest cattle drives, from Texas to Kansas, involved as many as 600,000 cattle a year, but they lasted just fifteen years or so. Hog droving, by comparison, involved hundreds of thousands of animals during peak years and on some routes lasted nearly a century. From Kentucky alone, as many as 100,000 hogs per year were driven east to Richmond, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
[A]lthough the ocean may take up 71 percent of the earth's surface, its volume accounts for as much as 97 percent of the earth's biological habitat.Gary Kinder, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea (New York: Grove Publishing, 1998), Kindle loc.7932
[Andrew] Macfarlane's head was spinning. The injury to his skull started to swell. His mind flashed to Dr. Peter Baxter's talk at the workshop the day before.Victoria Bruce, No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), ch. 11.
Fifty percent, Macfarlane thought. Baxter had said that when people are caught in a volcanic explosion, 50 percent usually survive. He winced as rock fragments battered his shins and thighs. Fifty percent. "It was a source of great encouragement for me," he recalled. Aloud, he repeated to himself as he ran: "We won't all die. We won't all die. We won't all die."
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
"At that time engineers of all types were pathetically ignorant of mathematics," [Thornton] Fry maintained, "so that anybody who could compute or quote a theory—even if he quoted it wrong—was admired by them. A mathematician was something like a nun; he was automatically admirable. He was different than other people."Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 122
Monday, May 9, 2016
I have heard many pupils play page after page of the instruction book, missing the notes here and there and making all manner of misakes without correcting them, then say, "Well, I played fifteen pages of exercises today." There was no realization that evenif only one mistake was made they had not played the fifteen pages, but simply "played at them."Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 1.
Sunday, May 8, 2016
My father, who, in my opinion, was one of the best men on earth, forbade me to practice the cornet. For one reason, he did not want me to play a wind instrument, and for another, he was particularly against permitting me to belong to a band, as he thought that association with band musicians was too rough for a boy. Without the intention of being disrespectful or disobedient, I could hardly keep myself away from the cornet for a moment, for I loved it to such an extent.Herbert L. Clarke, How I Became a Cornetist (orig. pub. 1934; reprinted in 2011 by BrassMusician.com), ch. 1.
In all of the families we visited, regardless of social class, parents were caregivers. It was parents, not children, who were responsible for making sure there was food in the house, that children were bathed, that they had clean clothes to wear, got dressed in clothes that matched, and went to bed in time to get enough sleep. Parents watched over their children when they were sick, signed them up for school or other activities, and took them to the dentist and the doctor. These routines, present in all families, were taxing for adults, even in middle-class families. Children, while often charming, can be difficult, too. Parents in all social classes struggled with children who dawdled, lost things, rejected food as unacceptable, did not do as the were asked, and, at times, resisted, subverted, and tested the limits of their parents' control.Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 5
Saturday, May 7, 2016
He preferred to snooze under my deck chair in the shade, and his happy snores gave me a good reason to stay lazing in the sun. (One of the many advantages of having a dog is that it gives you an excuse for doing things that might seem too indulgent if you were doing them alone. "I don't like to disturb the dog," you can tell yourself as you linger another hour in bed or at the beach.)Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 5.
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Including the urban ecosystem, and within it subirdia, in a broad conservation strategy can cure environmental amnesia. The city is the place where we can foster a love of nature because it is where we experience nature. There, among the streets and buildings, ecologically aware citizens bring local and scientific knowledge to bear on pressing social and environmental issues. Doing so not only helps the animals now, but also may be essential to those of the future that will require that Home urbanus value nature at a distance, despite living in the city.John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), p. 214.
Monday, May 2, 2016
The literature of antiquity is all seen from the perspective of the ruling class; its characters are exploiters, controllers, conquerors. There is where the sympathies of the narrator invariably lies [sic] and it is the elite audience for whom the author is playing. The victims by and large have walk-on parts; they do not matter. That is the truth of the slaves in Gone with the Wind, no matter that Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for her forceful portrayal of Mammy in the film. The slaves are so unrealistically portrayed that no one with the slightest knowledge of the sociology of the antebellum American South could possibly consider the characters identifiable. Think of Theresienstadt, the so-called model concentration camp.Charles Rowan Beye, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), p.
Then it was that I began unconsciously to find my lifetime's subject matter unpalatable. The glorification of cruelty, the self-pity of the exploiter and despoiler, these were the stuff of ancient literature, and adopted easily by ruling classes throughout history. Our obvious spiritual ancestors, the English aristocracy at their Greek and Latin at Eton and Oxford, the German Junker class, were then embraced by the bourgeoisie in both those countries and in the United States as a means of empowerment. Children of this class could reinforce their notions of superiority by recourse to identifying with Aeneas or Achilles or Hector and their consorts.
Sunday, May 1, 2016
In 2005, 2 percent of the coterminous United States, some forty million acres of land, was lawn. Nearly every bit was "industrial lawn," composed of only a few nonnative grass species. These invaders are regularly mowed to a low, even height and kept continuously green and free of weeds and pests. To maintain this sea of grass Americans annually spend $30 billion. The use eight hundred million gallons of gas, seven billion gallons of water, three million tons of nitrogen fertilizer, and thirty thousand tons of pesticide. The use of pesticides alone is ten times greater than used by the average farmer and includes chemicals that disrupt normal hormone function and reproduction, are suspected to cause cancer, and are banned in other countries. Simply filling up gas-powered lawnmowers is an ecological disaster of the highest order; seventeen million gallons of gas are spilled annually. That amount is more than was spilled by the Exxon Valdez in 1989 and every twelve years would equal the amount spewed into the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster.John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), pp. 182-83.
Physical proximity, in [Merwin] Kelly's view, was everything. People had to be near one another. phone calls alone wouldn't do. Kelly had even gone so far as to create "branch laboratories" at Western Electric factories so that Bell Labs scientists could get more closely involved in the transition of their work from development to manufacture.Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 151
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Some dog owners spend thousands of dollars on designer doghouses; some ruin their pets' health with too many treats; some take their pals to sheepherding boot camps, or run them through agility trials every weekend. I do none of these things; I simply love to be with Grisby. I love to kiss and pet him, but while he seems to understand the point of my affection, he doesn't always appreciate getting it as much as I enjoy giving it. This often makes me feel a little Humbert Humbert-ish, especially when Grisby's sitting on my lap in the car and I have access to parts of his body that are normally inaccessible to me, like his soft piebald underbelly. Should I feel ashamed of myself?Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 4.
Friday, April 29, 2016
One of the few medieval leaders to leave a lasting legacy was Charles IV (1316-1378), the first king of Bohemia to rule also in Germany and as sovereign of the Holy Roman Empire. A forward thinker, the monarch went through several wives, one French, the next three German. The fourth, Elisabeth of Pomerania, entertained dinner guests by ripping chain metal to shreds and bending horseshoes with her bare hands. There was no fifth wife.Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story f Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), p. 32.
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Some people pursue enlightenment by sitting quietly and probing their inner consciousness; I make plane reservations.Madeleine Albright, Prague Winter: A Personal Story f Remembrance and War, 1937 – 1948 (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), p. 12.
Monday, April 25, 2016
Of course, the best way to get to know a city is by walking, and this is true of dogs as much as humans. I get a lot more exercise since Grisby's arrival in my life; thee days, I prefer to travel by foot just for the pleasure of watching him trot along by my side. I like the way he draws my attention to things I'd never noticed before: stains on the sidewalk, discarded food, chewing gum, feathers, cigarette butts.Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 3.
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Why is a woman's love for lapdogs considered embarrassingly sentimental when men bond so proudly with their well-built hounds? Married women admit they sleep with their dogs, and married men deny it; someone's not telling the truth, but who's lying, and why?Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), Introduction.
Lapdogs . . . are associated with unfulfilled maternal instincts. While most people accept dogs as part of the family unit, they often feel uncomfortable in the presence of a childless woman and a dog, as if only when a dog's not really "needed" can it be loved appropriately. . . .Id., ch. 10.
It's an unfair stereotype, of course—all kinds of people, inclding men, dote on their dogs—but rather than debunking it, my first impulse is to distance myself from it. I feel compelled to make it very clear that, although I love my dog to distraction, I'm not one of those women, and Grisby is't one of those dogs He's not a Chihuahua or a shih tzu; he's a tough little bulldog, too heavy to ride in a carrier or snuggle on my lap. I want to deny and disavow, to insist how different my situation is, instead of thinking about why it's so hard for a woman who buys sweter for her dog to be taken seriously.
In some ways, after all, I am one of those women.
Wednesday, April 20, 2016
[T]he Silicon Valley process . . . was a different innovation model from Bell Labs. It was not a factory of ideas; it was a geography of ideas. It was not one concentrated and powerful machine; it was the meshing of many interlocking small parts grouped physically near enough to one another so as to make an equally powerful machine. The Valley model, in fact, was soon so productive that it became a topic of study for sociologists and business professors. They soon bestowed upon the area the title of an "innovation hub."Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 346
Friday, April 15, 2016
"The management style was, and remained for many years, to use the lightest touch and absolutely never to compete with underlings," recalls Phil Anderson, a physicist who joined Bell labs soon after the transistor was developed. "This was the taboo that Shockley transgressed, and was never forgiven."Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation (New York: Penguin, 2012), p. 102
Sunday, April 10, 2016
On the evening of April 10[, 1942,] a surfaced U-boat used its deck gun to scuttle the SS Gulf-America off of Jacksonville Beach, Florida. The flaming tanker went down so close to shore that the departing U-boat captain gazed in fascination through his binoculars as thousands of tourists, their faces bathed in the red glow of the ship's fire, poured out of their hotels and restaurants to gape at the spectacle. "All the vacationers had seen an impressive special performance at Roosevelt's expense," Commander Reinhard Hardegen gleefully recorded in his log. "A burning tanker, artillery fire, the silhouette of a U-boat—how often had all of that been seen in America?"David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999), ch. 17
Friday, April 8, 2016
Britain could replace the 3,472 lost guns, the 63,879 abandoned vehicles; but the 224,686 rescued troops were irreplaceable. . . . Later, they would be the nucleus of the great Allied armies that won back the Continent. . . .Walter Lord, The Miracle of Dunkirk (New York: Open Road Integrated Media, 2012), p. 274 (copyright 1982)
But the significance of Dunkirk went far beyond such practical considerations. The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave thema sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked. . . .
Some would later say that it was all clever propaganda that cranked up the country to this emotional peak. But it happened too quickly—too spontaneously—for that. This was a case where the people actually led the propagandists.
Saturday, April 2, 2016
We encountered a remarkable change in the student body, particularly the new graduate students in classics, which forecasted a general shift in the culture of American youth. In the fall term of the academic year 1964-65, as I approached the spot where my Homer seminar was scheduled, I saw the students unaccountably standing outside the building as though waiting, and moreover they all seemed to be smoking the same cigarette, which they were passing around among themselves. Once we had reassembled and I began, I quickly sensed an undertone of hilarity, which in the course of the two hours occasionally broke into giggles and even laughter at what I had to think was only minimally humorous. They were stoned, of course, but I had no understanding of this. At least not then, but it rapidly became an obvious feature of more events than I would like. I began to recognize a new kind of insouciance, a marvelous disconnect, sometimes adding a wonderful long-distance focus on the material at hand, sometimes just descending into a vague pit where any understanding was threatening to be demolished. Ironically enough, it resembled what I now encounter all the time in my dotage as my friends and I carry on conversations in which we often forget the thread in the middle of speaking. The only things missing are the giggles and the munchies.Charles Rowan Beye, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), p.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Yale in those days was an old boys' club into which I was pleased to see that I could fit. The very manner in which I was hired has always amused and gratified me. At the December 1956 Philadelphia meeting of the American Philological Association, Professor Dow had invited me to join his group for dinner at the famous, and expensive, Bookbinders Restaurant in the city, an event charged with hidden significance, since Dow was much too cheap to frequent such places ordinarily. In addition to three or four of his students, Dow had invited Frank Brown, who . . . was the chair of the Yale Classics Department. Fifty years ago when the old-boy network controlled the job process there was no neutral mechanism for those offering jobs and those seeking them. Opportunities were not posted on a public list; young people entering the field had no means for making themselves known other than what their mentors could do for them. Precious little, as you can imagine, for women or Jews or those from obscure institutions.
. . .
Charles Rowan Beye, My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012), p. 133
The following week I was surprised to receive a note from Brown inviting me to present myself as a candidate for the opening at Yale.