"Out of touch in Africa was where I wanted to be. The wish to disappear sends many travelers away. If you are thoroughly sick of being kept waiting at home or at work, travel is perfect: let other people wait for a change. Travel is a sort of revenge for having been put on hold, having to leave messages on answering machines, not knowing your party's extension, being kept waiting all your working life.
"Travel in the African bush can also be a sort of revenge on cellular phones and fax machines, on telephones and the daily paper, on the creepier aspects of globalization that allow anyone who chooses to get his insinuating hands on you. I desired to be unobtainable.
"I was going to Africa for the best reason -- in a spirit of discovery; and for the pettiest -- simply to disappear, to light out, with a suggestion of I dare you to try and find me.
"Home had become a routine, and routines make time pass quickly. I was a sitting duck in my predictable routine: people knew when to call me; they knew when I would be at my desk. I was in such regular touch it was like having a job, a mode of life I hated. I was sick of being called up and importuned, asked for favors, hit up for money. You stick around too long and people begin to impose their own deadlines on you. 'I need this by the twenty-fifth' or 'Please read this by Friday' or 'Try to finish this over the weekend' or 'Let's have a conference call on Wednesday.' Call me, fax me, e-mail me. You can get me anytime on my cell phone, here's the number.
"Being available at any time in the totally accessible world seemed
to me pure horror. It made me want to find a place that was not accessible
at all: no phones, no fax machines, not even mail delivery, the wonderful
old world of being out of touch. In other words, gone away."
(From newsscan, 2004Apr30)
"The hardest part of gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche." (Robert Heinlein)
Science writer Fred Hapgood says: "Engineering can be seen as a family of paths crossing a solution space -- in this case a space defined by all the possible arrangements and combinations of geometry, time, and material properties that might satisfy the particular specifications of a design. Filtering a good design out of these possibilities by simple, direct calculation is impossible both because of the enormous number of variables and because there are always elements in the specifications -- like aesthetics or ergonomics or compatibility with the corporate image -- that can't be reduced to a number or folded into a common denominator. What humans do in these cases is: think up a completely wrong (but sincerely felt) approach to the problem, jump in, fail, and then do an autopsy. Each failure contains encrypted somewhere on its body directions for the next jump: 'strengthen this part,' 'tie this down next time,' 'buy a better battery.' Good engineering is not a matter of creativity or centering or grounding or inspiration or lateral thinking, as useful as those might be, but of decoding the clever, even witty, messages solution space carves on the corpses of the ideas in which you believed with all your heart, and then building the road to the next message." (From newsscan, 2004Mar11)
World famous paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey places language over tool-making in describing the course of human evolution:
What can we say of the mental machinery of humans, three times greater than that in the large primates? Once again, there seems to be an obvious explanation: technology. 'Technology has long been regarded as the driving force behind human brain expansion,' says UCLA professor Harry Jerison. Indeed, one of the most influential concepts of human origins during this century was encapsulated in a little book that Kenneth Oakley wrote in 1949: 'Man the Tool-Maker'. Oakley, a major figure at the British Museum for many years, and the uncoverer of the Piltdown hoax, argued that not only did man make tools, but, effectively, tools made man. In other words, as natural selection honed the manipulative skills required for tool making, a bigger brain evolved, making us more human. The image is of a positive evolutionary loop, in which greater manipulative skills required greater brain power, which in turn permitted a more developed technology, and so on. This seemed a reasonable argument, not least because in many ways we see ourselves as highly skilled technological creatures.
Jerison makes a very astute observation concerning the hypothesis of man the tool-maker. 'It seems to me to be an inadequate explanation, not least because tool making can be accomplished with very little brain tissue,' he says. 'The production of simple, useful speech, on the other hand, requires a substantial amount of brain tissue.' Language, that's what we need big brains for, implies Jerison. There is no doubt that through human history the neurological basis of technological skills improved through natural selection. But language shouts to be recognized as the skill that makes us different from our primate cousins.
Equipped with language, or, more specifically, the facility of reflective thought, our minds create a mental model of the world that is uniquely human, capable of coping with complex practical and social challenges. That mental model was the product of an emerging hunter-gatherer way of life. It involved a balanced relation with the resources of the environment and a complex, tightly constructed social and economic contract within human groups. It was recognizably primate in origin, but unprecedented in its degree of development. Its primary product was human culture, a mix of things material and things mythological, things practical and things spiritual: a uniquely human mental model of the world, woven on the loom of language. ***
From NewsScan Daily, 5 February 2004: See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0385467923/newsscancom/ref=nosim for Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin's "Origins Reconsidered: In Search of What Makes Us Human" -- or look for it in your favorite library. (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy programs.)
In "The Lexis and the Olive Tree," author Thomas Friedman describes how things have changed since the world moved from the Cold War period into the present Age of Globalization. The book was published in 1999.
"Globalization has its own defining technologies: computerization, miniaturization, digitization, satellite communications, fiber optics and the Internet. And these technologies helped to create the defining perspective of globalization. If the defining perspective of the Cold War world was 'division,' the defining perspective of globalization is 'integration.' The symbol of the Cold War system was a wall, which divided everyone. The symbol of the globalization system is a World Wide Web, which unites everyone. The defining document of the Cold War system was 'The Treaty.' The defining document of the globalization system is 'The Deal.'
"While the defining measurement of the Cold War was weight -- particularly the throw weight of missiles -- the defining measurement of the globalization system is speed -- speed of commerce, travel, communication and innovation. The Cold War was about Einstein's mass-energy equation, e = mc-squared. Globalization is about Moore's law, which states that the computing power of silicon chips will double every eighteen to twenty-four months. In the Cold War, the most frequently asked question was: 'How big is your missile?' In globalization, the most frequently asked question is: 'How fast is your modem?'
"If the defining anxiety of the Cold War was fear of annihilation from an enemy you knew all too well in a world struggle that was fixed and stable, the defining anxiety in globalization is fear of rapid change from an enemy you can't see, touch or feel -- a sense that your job, community or workplace can be changed at any moment by anonymous economic and technological forces that are anything but stable."
From NewsScan Daily, 21 November 2001: "See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385499345/newsscancom/ for Thomas L. Friedman's "The Lexus and the Olive Tree" -- or look for it in your favorite library. (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to literacy action programs.) "
Marketing expert Kathy Biro gives this insight on why some new gizmos, despite their obvious benefits, don't always sell.
"Historically, consumer acceptance of new technologies has been slow and cumbersome, delaying anticipated profits by decades. Indeed, consumer acceptance of any innovation is typically slow, despite extraordinary benefits and convenience.
"When cake mixes were first created, they required consumers to only add water-a major behavioral shift. Consumers felt a cake made with such a mix could not possibly be as good as a homemade cake. So cake mix formulas were revised to require the addition of an egg and milk. The new mixes met with great success, because the behavior shift required of consumers was minor. Eventually some consumers became comfortable adding only water (some never will)."
See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0875848354/newsscancom for "Sense and Respond: Capturing Value in the Network Era" (ed. by Stephen Bradley and Richard Nolan and containing the essay by Kathy Biro) -- or book recommendations to adult literacy programs.)
Harvard scientist Stephen Jay Gould points up one of our human quirks:
"Among the devices that we use to impose order upon a complicated (but by no means unstructured) world, classification--or the division of items into categories based on perceived similarities--must rank as the most general and most pervasive of all. And no strategy of classification cuts deeper--while providing such an even balance of benefits and difficulties--than our propensity for division by two, or dichotomy.
"Some basic attributes of surrounding nature do exist as complementary pairings--two large lights in the sky representing day and night; two sexes that must couple their opposing parts to produce a continuity of generations--so we might argue that dichotomization amounts to little more than good observation of the external world. But far more often than not, dichotomization leads to misleading or even dangerous oversimplification. ripe for burning); and organisms are not either plant or animal, vertebrate or invertebrate, human or beast. We seem so driven to division by two, even in clearly inappropriate circumstances, that I must agree with several schools of thought (most notably Claude Levi-Strauss and the French structuralists) in viewing dichotomization more as an inherent mechanism of the brain's operation than as a valid perception of external reality."
from NewsScan Daily, 31 May 2001
Roger Schank, professor computer science, psychology and education at Northwestern University, predicts:
"Eventually school as we know it will wither away. Initially, people will learn all the traditional subjects on the computer but in new ways that involve learning by doing. Eventually the traditional subjects will be combined since the idea of one professor/one course will go away. Students will work in complex simulated environments that teach many different kinds of things at the same time. The rest of school will be replaced by the winter equivalent of summer camp, where children learn to get along with one another, work as a team, accomplish projects of their own interest and generally deal with the human side of education, which is so often forgotten in school. The computer can and will provide the rest. There will be no standard curriculum and no standardized tests. When the student lands the simulated plane under various conditions he is certified to fly that plane. So it will be with the rest of education. The computer will certify those who have accomplished what they set out to accomplish in a simulation. Students will choose what they want to accomplish and will work hard to be capable in the areas that intrigue them. We will all be much better off for the change."
Princeton University's Edward Tenner wants us to know that bugs, those notorious enemies of technology, have been around long before computers:
"The bug, that perverse and elusive malfunctioning of hardware and later of software, was born in the nineteenth century. It was already accepted shop slang as early as 1878, when Thomas Edison described his style of invention in a letter to a European representative: 'The first step is an intuition and it comes with a burst, then difficulties arise -- this thing gives out and then that -- "Bugs" -- as such little faults and difficulties are called -- show themselves, and months of intense watching, study and labor are requisite before commercial success -- or failure -- is certainly reached.'
"Edison implies that this use of 'bug' had not begun in his laboratory but was already standard jargon. The expression seems to have originated as telegrapher's slang. Western Union and other telegraph companies, with their associated branch offices, formed America's first high-technology system. About the time of Edison's letter, Western Union had over twelve thousand stations, and it was their condition that probably helped inspire the metaphor. City offices were filthy, and clerks exchanged verse about the gymnastics of insects cavorting in the cloakrooms. When, in 1945, a moth in a relay crashed the Mark II electromechanical calculator that the Navy was running at Harvard -- it can still be seen taped in the original logbook -- the bug metaphor had already been around for at least seventy-five years." NewsScan Daily, 13 March 2001
Keith Windschuttle warns in "The Killing of History" that today each historian makes his own history.
"History is an intellectual discipline that is more than 2,400 years old. It ranks with philosophy and mathematics as among the most profound and enduring contributions that ancient Greece made, not only to European civilization, but to the human species as a whole. Instead of the mythical tales which all human cultures have used to affirm their sense of self-worth and their place in the cosmos, the Greek historians decided to try to record the truth about the past. They did this even though they knew their stories would expose how fragile was their existence, how their heroes could not guarantee their victories, how their oracles could not foretell their future and how their gods could not ensure their fortunes. The greatest of them, Thucydides, revealed how the fate of people was entirely contingent upon human actions and social organization. Myth had been comforting, but history was bracing. For most of the last 2,400 years, the essence of history has continued to be that it should try to tell the truth, to describe as best as possible what really happened. Over this time, of course, many historians have been exposed as mistaken, opinionated and often completely wrong, but their critics have usually felt obliged to show they were wrong about real things, that their claims about the past were different from the things that had actually happened. In other words, the critics still operated on the assumption that the truth was within the historian's grasp.
"Today, these assumptions are widely rejected, even among some people employed as historians themselves. In the 1990s, the newly dominant theorists within the humanities and social sciences assert that it is impossible to tell the truth about the past or to use history to produce knowledge n any objective sense at all. They claim we can only see the past through the perspective of our own culture and, hence, what we see in history are our own interests and concerns reflected back at us. The central point upon which history was founded no longer holds: there is no fundamental distinction any more between history and myth."
See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1893554120/newsscancom/ for Keith Windschuttle's "The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists Are Killing Our Past." (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy action programs.)
Political scientist Harold J. Laski wrote:
"Expertise, it may be argued, sacrifices the insight of common sense to intensity of experience. It breeds an inability to accept new views from the very depth of its preoccupation with its won conclusions. It too often fails to see round its subject. It sees its results out of perspective by making them the centre of relevance to which all other results must be related. Too often, also, it lacks humility; and this breeds in its possessors a failure in proportion which makes them fail to see the obvious which is before their very noses. It has, also, a certain caste-spirit about it, so that experts tend to neglect all evidence which does not come from those who belong to their own ranks.
"Above all, perhaps, and this most urgently when human problems are concerned, the expert fails to see that every judgment he makes not purely factual in nature brings with it a scheme of values which has no special validity about it. He tends to confuse the importance of his facts with the importance of what he proposes to do about them."
As Quoted by newsscan from Harold J. Laski, "The Limitations of the Expert," in "The Intellectuals," edited by George B. de Huszar. For a more recent work of Laski, see his "The Rise of European Liberalism," http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560008458/newsscancom/ .(We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy programs.)
Neurologists Donald B. Calne says:
"Reason is a biological product -- a tool whose power is inherently and substantially restricted. It has improved how we do things; it has not changed why we do things. Reason has generated knowledge enabling us to fly around the world in less than two days. Yet we still travel for the same purposes that drove our ancient ancestors -- commerce, conquest, religion, romance, curiosity, or escape from overcrowding, poverty, and persecution.
"To deny that reason has a role in setting our goals seems, at first, rather odd. A personal decision to go on a diet or take more exercise appears to be based upon reason. The same might be said for a government decision to raise taxes or sign a trade treaty. But reason is only contributing to the 'how' portion of these decisions; the more fundamental 'why' element, for all of these examples, is driven by instinctive self-preservation, emotional needs, and cultural attitudes. We are usually reluctant to admit the extent to which these forces govern our behavior, and accordingly we often recruit reason to explain and justify our actions. "
See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375403515/newsscancom/ for Donald B. Calne's "Within Reason: Rationality and Human Behavior." (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to adult literacy programs.)
In France they eat only one egg for breakfast. This is because, in France, one egg is un oeuf.
Speaking of eggs, we are all familiar with the most famous egg of all: un petit d'un petit.
What did the French bugler say when he opened his instrument case and found it empty? Ans: "rien de tout".
In his history of rudeness, Mark Caldwell warns us that minding our manners is more than a mere politeness:
"As the twentieth century closes, Americans seem troubled anew by the state of their manners and seem also to agree that the problem is serious, even momentous. But is civility really on a par with more obviously fateful ethical issues -- war, murder, euthanasia? Philosophy, in fact, has traditionally been very much of two minds about the moral significance of manners. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), the great seventeenth-century English social theorist, disparaged etiquette, defining it in his best known work, "Leviathan," as "how one should salute another, or how a man should wash his mouth, or pick his teeth before company and such other points of the small morals." Hobbes meant the latter phrase pejoratively, ranking good manners far beneath issues of real moral moment.
"Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the hugely influential eighteenth-century German ethicist and metaphysician, characteristically thought etiquette ('accessibility, affability, politeness, refinement, propriety, courtesy, and ingratiating and captivating behavior,' as he defined it in an early lecture at the University of Knigsberg) a concern separate from and inferior to morals. Manners, he argued, 'call for no large measure of moral determination and cannot, therefore, be reckoned as virtues.' Yet he didn't finally dismiss them, for 'even though [manners] are no virtues, they are a means of developing virtue.... The more we refine the crude elements in our nature, the more we improve our humanity and the more capable it grows of feeling the driving force of virtuous principles.'
"Advocates of manners often repeat this idea forcefully -- none more so than Edmund Burke (1729-1797): 'Manners are of more importance than laws. Upon them, in a great measure the laws depend. The law touches us but here purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and colour to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.'"
See http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312204329/newsscancom/ for Mark Caldwell's "A Short History of Rudeness Manners, Morals, and Misbehavior in Modern America." (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to Literacy Action's adult literacy programs.)
"Every other country scorns American materialism while striving in every big and little way to match it. Envy obviously has something to do with it, but there is a true basis for this debate, and it is whether America is in its ascendance or its decline.
"I myself think I recognize here several of the symptoms that Edward Gibbons maintained were signs of the decline of Rome, and which arose not from external enemies but from inside the country itself. A mounting love of show and luxury. A widening gap between the very rich and the very poor. An obsession with sex. Freakishness in the arts masquerading as originality, and enthusiasm pretending to creativeness...
"There is, too, the general desire to live off the state, whether it is a junkie on welfare or an airline subsidized by the government: in a word, the notion that Washington -- Big Daddy -- will provide. And, most disturbing of all, a developing moral numbness to vulgarity, violence, and the assault on the simplest human decencies.
"Yet the original institutions of this country still have great vitality: the Republic can be kept, but only if we care to keep it. Much of the turmoil in America springs from the energy of people who are trying to apply those institutions to forgotten minorities who have awakened after a long sleep.
"As I see it, in this country -- a land of the most persistent idealism and the blandest cynicism -- the race is on between its decadence and its vitality. There are the woes, which we share with the world, that you can see from your window: overpopulation; the pollution of the atmosphere, the cities and the rivers; the destruction of nature. I find it impossible to believe that a nation that produced such dogged and ingenious humans as Jefferson and Eli Whitney, John Deere and Ford, Kettering and Oppenheimer and Edison and Franklin, is going to sit back and let the worst happen. There is now a possibility, at least, that nuclear energy can help us to cure incurable diseases, to preserve our food indefinitely, and through breeder reactors, which renew more power in the act of spending it, can actually clean the cities and, let us pray, the oceans. And that would take us over a historical watershed that none of us has ever conceived."
Alistair Cooke, the quintessential Englishman turned American TV commentator, writing in 1973
"The life of every individual, if we survey it as a whole and in general, and only lay stress upon its most significant features, is really always a tragedy, but gone through in detail, it has the character of a comedy. For the deeds and vexations of the day, the restless irritation of the moment, the desires and fears of the week, the mishaps of every hour, are all through chance, which is ever bent upon some jest, scenes of a comedy.
"But the never-satisfied wishes, the frustrated efforts, the hopes unmercifully crushed by fate, the unfortunate errors of the whole life, with increasing suffering and death at the end, are always a tragedy. Thus, as if fate would add derision to the misery of our existence, our life must contain all the woes of tragedy, and yet we cannot even assert the dignity of tragic characters, but in the broad detail of life must inevitably be the foolish characters of a comedy."
NewsScan 11/23: Today's Honorary Subscriber is Augusta Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of the English poet Lord Byron, and the woman mathematician whose place in the history of computer science was commemorated by the U.S. Department of Defense when it named its specialized software language "Ada" in her honor in 1979.
Ada Lovelace is sometimes referred to as the world's first programmer, but programmer is probably not the correct term to describe her actual contribution. Her real role in the early days of "computing machines" was as interpreter and promoter of the "Calculating Engine" of Charles Babbage. Ada was among the very few who grasped the potential of Babbage's work; she had the vision to predict that such a machine could be used to compose complex music, produce graphics, and be used for scientific as well as practical purposes. She wrote a plan for using the "Engine" to calculate Bernoulli numbers, and it was this plan that some have regarded as the first "computer program." Ada's genius allowed her to anticipate by more than a century many computer applications considered to be today's latest developments. She was named after Augusta, her father's half-sister, who had been his mistress. Five weeks after Ada was born Lady Byron asked for a separation from Lord Byron, and was awarded sole custody of Ada, who she brought up to be a mathematician and scientist, which was most unusual for a woman at the time.
In 1833, when she was 18, Ada met Charles Babbage and was fascinated with both him and his Engines. In addition to Babbage, Ada also associated with other notable personages of the time, including Sir David Brewster (the originator of the kaleidoscope), Charles Wheatstone, Charles Dickens and Michael Faraday. In 1835, Ada married William King and three years later became the Countess of Lovelace when her husband was created first Earl of Lovelace. Her husband was supportive of her mathematical studies and encouraged her to continue to correspond with Charles Babbage and her other scientific interests.
Ada died young, at age 36 (the same age her father died), and for the next hundred years she would be remembered as the daughter of Lord Byron the poet. Only in the following century would she become known for her own accomplishments as an early figure in the history of the computer age.
"The demystification of art is one of the most far-reaching effects of the use of computers in the arts. No sooner is it recognized that the creation of art can be formalized, programmed and subjected to mathematical treatment, than all those secrets that used to enshroud art vanish. Similarly with the reception of art; the description of reality in rational terms inevitably leads away from irrational modes of thought, such as the idea that art causes effects that cannot be described scientifically, or that information is passed on to the public by the artist that could not be expressed in any other way. And so art loses it function as a substitute for faith, which it still fulfils here and there."
Herbert Franke, quoted in John D. Barrow's, "The Artful Universe: The Cosmic Source of Human Creativity":
"If you want to feel proud of yourself, you need to do things of which to feel proud. Feelings follow actions." (Oseola McCarty)
HONORARY SUBSCRIBER: OSEOLA McCARTY
Today's Honorary Subscriber is the African-American former washerwoman Oseola McCarty (1908-1999), who donated her life savings of $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi, so that deserving young people would be able to enjoy educational opportunities she herself had never had. At the age of five, Oseola McCarty moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi with her grandmother and aunt, and was taught to do all the things they did -- making soap, washing clothes by hand on a washboard, and so forth. She and her grandmother worked from break of dawn to almost midnight -- and were paid 50 cents a bundle for as much laundry as a customer could tie into a bedsheet. But she saved as much money as she could, and by the age of 87 (when her declining health forced her to stop working) she decided that the best thing she could do with the money she'd saved was to use it to provide scholarships for financially needy students.
In her final years, McCarty wrote a book explaining her philosophy of
life. See: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1563523418/newsscancom.
(We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to Literacy Action's adult literacy programs.)
"The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilization to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York."
The preceding excerpt is from Dyson's 1985 Gifford Lectures. His most recent book, which examines much newer technologies, is: "The Sun, the Genome, and the Internet : Tools of Scientific Revolutions": http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195129423/newsscancom/ (We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to Literacy Action, in support of adult literacy.)
"I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas... There will probably be a general impression that the man who landed (armed to the teeth and talking by signs) to print the British flag on that barbaric temple which turned out to be the Pavilion at Brighton, felt rather a fool. I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again?
"...I am that man in a yacht. I discovered England"
The great American journalist and savant H.L. Mencken once observed: "In the sciences, hypothesis always precedes law, which is to say, there is always a lot of tall guessing before a new fact is established. The guessers are often quite as important as the fact-finders; in truth, it would not be difficult to argue that they are more important. New facts are seldom plucked from the clear sky; they have to be approached and smelled out by a process of trial and error, in which bold and shrewd guessing is an integral part. The Greeks were adept at such guessing, and the scientists of the world have been following the leads they opened for more than two thousand years."
Today's Honorary Subscriber is the distinguished English-born scholar Ronald Hilton (b. 1911), a Professor Emeritus of Stanford University and a Fellow of the Hoover Institution. He founded (in 1965) the independent World Association of International Studies (WAIS), a worldwide network of people interested in international affairs. Its journal was the first in any field to go online in full-text.
Hilton studied at Oxford from 1929 to 1937. In Madrid in 1931 he witnessed the fall of the monarchy and the coming of the republic; he was evacuated during the Civil War; witnessing the rise and fall of a democracy had a deep impact on him. He lived in Germany under Hitler and in Italy under Mussolini, "observing how a dictator can influence a desperate people weary of incompetent government." He has since been "obsessed by the world's need for responsible citizens."
We were very proud to discover some time ago that Ronald Hilton is a regular reader of NewsScan Daily (and a particular fan of our Honorary Subscribers). In fact, in a recent e-mail exchange he told us:
"Today's Honorary Subscriber piece on Carey McWilliams interested me because, as editor of The Nation, he published my revelations about the Bay of Pigs. The story has been told often, but you may not have heard it. I happened to visit Guatemala and find that the CIA was preparing a force to invade Cuba. I knew it was crazy, since the CIA had completely misjudged the situation in Cuba and did not know the geography of the island. Everyone in Guatemala knew about it, and it was discussed in the local media. Certainly Castro knew about it. When I came back to the U.S. I found that no one knew about it because the local stringers had been bribed. I expressed my warnings publicly, but to no avail. I was right, but the CIA and consequently the Stanford administration were irate and tried to censor me. I quit the Latin American Institute which I had founded and established WAIS."
In a recent communication to the WAIS community he reiterated some of his long-standing concerns about the state of politics:
"The United States is trying to promote democracy around the world and holds itself up as a model. However, it is obvious that our democracy has been reduced to charisma and money.
"Surely intelligent and conscientious citizens can make wise and informed decisions? I for one cannot... I do not know anyone who spends more hours than I do in search of information and wisdom, yet it avails me little. Many people with power spend much of their time flying around the world, being wined and dined, but that means they have little time to do their homework.
"Is the idea of democracy based on an informed electorate just a dream?"
The home page of the World Association of International Studies (WAIS) is at http://www.stanford.edu/group/wais/ Those interested in joining should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"If you don't understand what Beethoven 'says,' the reason is that the sounds he uses are not a meaningful language for you; and the thing to do is to learn this language as you would any other...Which is to say that you will have to listen to Beethoven's music, and keep listening... just as the way to understand a poem is to read it, and the way to understand a painting is to look at it, so the way--the only way--to understand a piece of music is to listen to it, and to keep listening."
>From B. H. Haggin, "The Listener's Musical Companion" (Oxford University Press, 1991).
Today's Honorary Subscriber is the biophysicist Robert Rosen (1934-1998), who suggested that the study of "anticipation" will be the next frontier in science.
The following tribute to Rosen, who died last year, was written by our friend Mihai Nadin, a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Stanford University:
"Almost 200 scientists and philosophers from around the world are listed in the program of the international congress on Anticipatory Systems to open on August 8 in Liege, Belgium. Although the program does not mention Robert Rosen by name, he is one of the very few who initiated this field of inquiry. Educated in the mathematical biology program at the University of Chicago, Rosen pursued a course of inquiry best described in the words of an interviewer: 'to find answers to questions nobody wanted asked.' He challenged the machine metaphor and the expectation that the biological realm could be reduced to the models of physics. Rosen's publications cover quantum genetics, self-organization, and scientific discovery. From among the many manuscripts he left behind, a volume entitled Essays on Life Itself will be published this autumn by Columbia University Press. Among the topics discussed is 'How can science explain the unpredictable?'
"Joining in the research of his professor, Nicholas Rashevsky, Rosen devoted himself to the relational aspects of the living. Where traditional science asked the How (does it work?) question, he addressed the Why inquiry into the living. His most important book, Life Itself (Columbia University Press, 1991), introduces a new class of models (M, S) concerned with metabolism and self-repair, characteristics of the living that distinguish this class from the world of mechanisms and physical determinism. Instead of physical causality, Rosen pursues entailment, noticing that our understanding of the living and the possibility to synthesize it are not a matter of atoms and molecules, but of their relations. What defines the living is complexity. At a certain level of complexity life emerges. His modeling relation describes interpretation processes, or, as he put it, 'how we do science.'
"One of the characteristics of the living, as Rosen demonstrated, is anticipation. Succinctly defined, ANTICIPATION DESCRIBES THE BEHAVIOR OF A SYSTEM WHOSE CURRENT STATE DEPENDS NOT ON ITS PAST-THE DETERMINISTIC VIEW-BUT ON ITS FUTURE. His book Anticipatory Systems (Pergamon, 1985) provides various examples: forward activation in the biosynthetic pathway, the 'wired-in' wintering behavior of deciduous trees. Every anticipatory system contains a dynamic model that evolves faster than the system it models. Think about simulations controlling the launch of a rocket. Almost all forms of natural climatization -- how do we adapt from summer to winter -- are anticipatory in nature. As recently as last year, in a spectacular competition called WorldRobo Cup, teams from around the globe constructed soccer-playing robots featuring agents endowed with anticipatory characteristics. Rosen's definition of anticipation became their algorithm.
"A Millsian democrat, as he confessed to being, Rosen had a very high sense of social responsibility. Asked about his work on complexity and biological synthesis, he admitted that in his view, applications of his work could prove more dangerous than the development of atomic fission. To fundamentally change nature and the characteristics of organisms is an awesome task. It is sad to realize that his work remained marginally known during his lifetime. But as his ideas make it to the world community of scientists, a late but surely merited recognition is springing up. If you've never heard of Robert Rosen, you are not alone. But chances are that you will hear more and more about him."
Those interested in Robert Rosen's work will find "Essays on Life Itself" at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0231105118/newsscancom/ . We donate all revenue from our book recommendations to Literacy Action, which promotes adult literacy.
"The pedagogical method of observation has for its base the liberty of
the child; and liberty is activity.
"Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which
is difficult for followers of common-school methods to understand. How
shall one obtain discipline in a class of free children? Certainly in our
system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that commonly
accepted. If discipline is founded upon liberty, consider an individual
disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute
and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not
"We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and
can, therefore, regulated his own conduct when it shall be necessary to
follow some rule of life. Such a concept of active discipline is not easy
either to comprehend or to apply. But certainly it contains a great
educational principle, very different from the old-time absolute and
undiscussed coercion to immobility."
"The pedagogical method of observation has for its base the liberty of the child; and liberty is activity.
"Discipline must come through liberty. Here is a great principle which is difficult for followers of common-school methods to understand. How shall one obtain discipline in a class of free children? Certainly in our system, we have a concept of discipline very different from that commonly accepted. If discipline is founded upon liberty, consider an individual disciplined only when he has been rendered as artificially silent as a mute and as immovable as a paralytic. He is an individual annihilated, not disciplined.
"We call an individual disciplined when he is master of himself, and can, therefore, regulated his own conduct when it shall be necessary to follow some rule of life. Such a concept of active discipline is not easy either to comprehend or to apply. But certainly it contains a great educational principle, very different from the old-time absolute and undiscussed coercion to immobility."
> Italian educator Maria Montessori (1870-1952) whose "Montessori method" is based on the belief that there needs to be an individual, joyous, stress-free learning program for each individual child. The first woman in her country to earn a medical degree, Montessori studied medicine and literature at the University of Rome before taking a job teaching in a mental-health clinic and working with mentally ill children. At the age of 28 she gave a lecture on her experiences at the clinic, and was so knowledgeable that Italy's minister of education, who heard her speak, appointed her to direct a school for retarded young people. In 1907 she led the development of a new school system for the poor children of Rome, and for the first time began to apply her insights to the teaching of children with normal intelligence and mental health. She was convinced that the teacher must be a friendly, unobtrusive guide rather than a dictatorial instructor, and that children need objects to touch and play with, a quiet surrounding, and an environment in which they will establish their own individual discipline, based on neither punishment nor reward. Montessori fled Italy for Spain after the rise of Mussolini. Her educational style has had an enormous influence throughout the world, including the United States. Her books include "The Montessori Method," "The Secret of Childhood," and "The Absorbent Mind." A good general introduction to Montessori is Elizabeth G. Hainstock's, "The Essential Montessori: An Introduction to the Woman, the Method, the Writings, the Movement," at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452277965/newsscancom/ . All revenue received by NewsScan from our book recommendations goes to Literacy Action, to promote adult literacy. Our "Honorary Subscriber" and "Worth Thinking About" features appear on alternate days. Our Honorary Subscriber archives are at http://www.newsscan.com/newsscan/hs.html /
"The Mind has a different relish, as well as the Palate; and you will as fruitlessly endeavour to delight all Men with Riches or Glory, (which yet some Men place their Happiness in,) as you would to satisfie all Men's Hunger with Cheese or Lobsters; which though very agreeable and delicious fare to some, are to others extremely nauseous and offensive: And many People would with Reason prefer the griping of an hungry Belly, to those Dishes, which are a Feast to others. Hence it was, I think, that the Philosophers of old did in vain enquire, whether Summum bonum (the chief good) consisted in Riches, or bodily Delights, or Virtue, or Contemplation: And they might have as reasonably disputed, whether the best Relish were to be found in Apples, Plumbs, or Nuts; and have divided themselves into Sects upon it. For as pleasant Tastes depend not on the things themselves, but their agreeableness to this or that particulate Palate, wherein there is great variety: So the greatest Happiness consists, in the having those things which produce the greatest Pleasure, and the absence of those which cause any disturbance, any pain, which to different Men are very different things. If therefore Men in this Life only have hope; if in this Life they can only enjoy, 'tis not strange, nor unreasonable, they should seek their Happiness by avoiding all things that disease them here, and by preferring all that delight them; wherein it will be no wonder to find variety and difference. For if there be no Prospect beyond the Grave, the inference is certainly right, Let us eat and drink, let us enjoy what we delight in, for to morrow we shall die. This, I think, may serve to shew us the Reason, why, though all Men's desires tend to Happiness, yet they are not moved by the same Object. Men may chuse different things, and yet all chuse right, supposing them only like a Company of poor Insects, whereof some are Bees, delighted with Flowers, and their sweetness; others, Bettles, delighted with other kinds of Viands; which having enjoyed for a Season, they should cease to be, and exist no more for ever."
>From John Locke's "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding."
WORTH THINKING ABOUT: "THINGS WHICH ARE NOT" Eric Hoffer was a San Francisco longshoreman and self-taught philosopher who thought deeply about society, history, leadership, and change. Here's a brief passage from his influential 1951 book, "The True Believer," which explored the nature of mass movements: "It is a perplexing and unpleasant truth that when men already have 'something worth fighting for,' they do not feel like fighting. People who live full, worthwhile lives are not usually ready to die for their own interests nor for their country nor for a holy cause. Craving, not having, is the mother of a reckless giving of oneself. "'Things which are not' are indeed mightier than 'things that are.' In all ages men have fought most desperately for beautiful cities yet to be build and gardens yet to be planted... "It is strange, indeed, that those who hug the present and hang on to it with all their might should be the least capable of defending it. And that, on the other hand, those who spurn the present and dust their hands of it should have all its gifts and treasures showered on them unasked. "Dreams, vision and wild hopes are mighty weapons and realistic tools. The practical-mindedness of a true leader consists in recognizing the practical value of these tools. Yet this recognition usually stems from a contempt of the present which can be traced to a natural ineptitude in practical affairs. The successful businessman is often a failure as a communal leader because his mind is attuned to the 'things that are' and his heart set on that which can be accomplished in 'our time.' Failure in the management of practical affairs seems to be a qualification for success in the management of public affairs. And it is perhaps fortunate that some proud natures when suffering defeat in the practical world do not feel crushed but are suddenly fired with the apparently absurd conviction that they are eminently competent to direct the fortunes of the community and the nation." As always, we would enjoy hearing what you think about all this. Check out Hoffer at your library or favorite local bookstore and coffee house, or use our direct amazon.com link to "The True Believer": http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060916125/newsscancom/ Hoffer's other books include "The Temper of our Time," "The Ordeal of Change" and "The Passionate State of Mind." Note: "Worth Thinking About" appears in every other issue of NewsScan Daily, alternating with our "Honorary Subscriber" feature. Visit our Hon Sub archives: http://www.newsscan.com/newsscan/hs.html
HONORARY SUBSCRIBER; ERICH FROMM
Today's Honorary Subscriber is Erich Fromm (1980-1980), the German psychoanalyst who wrote extensively on freedom, love, the nature of the authoritarian personality, and the role of culture in the formation of personality. Fleeing Germany in 1933 to escape the Nazis, he emigrated to the United States, where he wrote such books as "The Fear of Freedom" (1941), "The Sane Society" (1955), and "The Art of Loving" (1956). A major theme of his writing is the plight of the individual in an impersonal, industrialized society. As an example of Fromm's style of writing and thinking, here's a short passage from "The Sane Society": "Love is one aspect of what I have called the productive orientation: the active and creative relatedness of man to his fellow man, to himself and to nature. In the realm of thought, this productive orientation is expressed in the proper grasp of the world by reason. In the realm of action, the productive orientation is expressed in productive work, the prototype of which is art and craftsmanship. In the realm of feeling, the productive orientation is expressed in love, which is the experience of union with another person, with all men, and with nature, under the condition of retaining one's sense of integrity and independence. In the experience of love the paradox happens that two people become one, and remain two at the same time. Love in this sense is never restricted to one person. If I can love only one person, and nobody else, if my love for one person makes me more alienated and distant from my fellow man, I may be attached to this person in any number of ways, yet I do not love. If I can say, 'I love you,' I say, 'I love you in you also myself.' Self-love, in this sense, is the opposite of selfishness. The latter is actually a greedy concern with oneself which springs from and compensates for the lack of genuine love for oneself. Love, paradoxically, makes me more independent because it makes me stronger and happier -- yet it makes me one with the loved person to the extent that individuality seems to be extinguished for the moment. In loving I experience 'I am you,' you-the loved person, you-the stranger, you-everything alive. In the experience of love lies the only answer to being human, lies sanity."
Subject: FW: How To Bathe A Cat
Date: Fri, 2 Jul 1999 12:56:41 -0400
> > How To Bathe A Cat > > > > (Note: Jeffery LaCroix is a veterinarian with an office in > > Wilmington. He writes a column for the Morning Star called > > "From Paws to Tails." > > > > Here is his response to a letter regarding bathing a cat:) > > > > Dear Dr. LaCroix: I've heard that cats never have to be > > bathed, and that they have some sort of special enzyme in > > their saliva that keeps them clean. This doesn't sound > > believable to me because there are definite "kitty" odors > > on my couch and dirty cat paw prints on our white hearth. > > Is this true about the saliva? If we do decide to give > > "Nice Kitty" a bath, how do we do that? - NSP, Wilmington > > > > Dear NSP: Fortunately for you, several years ago a client > > gave me a written set of instructions about cat bathing > > which I am privileged to share with you: > > > > Cat Bathing As A Martial Art > > > > A. Know that although the cat has the advantage of > > quickness and lack of concern for human life, you have > > the advantage of strength. > > > > Capitalize on that advantage by selecting the battlefield. > > Don't try to bathe him in an open area where he can force > > you to chase him. Pick a very small bathroom. > > > > If your bathroom is more than four feet square, I recommend > > that you get in the tub with the cat and close the sliding > > -glass doors as if you were about to take a shower. > > (A simple shower curtain will not do. A berserk > > cat can shred a three-ply rubber shower curtain quicker than > > a politician can shift positions.) > > > > B. Know that a cat has claws and will not hesitate to > > remove all the skin from your body. Your advantage here > > is that you are smart and know how to dress to protect > > yourself. > > > > I recommend canvas overalls tucked into high-top > > construction boots, a pair of steel-mesh gloves, an army > > helmet, a hockey face-mask, and a long-sleeved flak jacket. > > > > C. Use the element of surprise. Pick up your cat > > nonchalantly, as if to simply carry him to his supper dish. > > (Cats will not usually notice your strange attire. They have > > little or no interest in fashion as a rule.) > > > > D. Once you are inside the bathroom, speed is essential to > > survival. In a single liquid motion, shut the bathroom door, > > step into the tub enclosure, slide the glass door shut, dip > > the cat in the water and squirt him with shampoo. > > > > You have begun one of the wildest 45 seconds of your life. > > > > E. Cats have no handles. Add the fact that he now has > > soapy fur, and the problem is radically compounded. > > > > Do not expect to hold on to him for more than two or three > > seconds at a time. When you have him, however, you must > > remember to give him another squirt of shampoo and rub > > like crazy. > > > > He'll then spring free and fall back into the water, thereby > > rinsing himself off. (The national record for cats is three > > latherings, so don't expect too much.) > > > > F. Next, the cat must be dried. Novice cat bathers always > > assume this part will be the most difficult, for humans > > generally are worn out at this point and the cat is just > > getting really determined. > > > > In fact, the drying is simple compared with what you have > > just been through. > > > > That's because by now the cat is semi-permanently affixed to > > your right leg. > > > > You simply pop the drain plug with your foot, reach for your > > towel and wait. (Occasionally, however, the cat will end up > > clinging to the top of your army helmet. If this happens, > > the best thing you can do is to shake him loose and to > > encourage him toward your leg.) After all the water is > > drained from the tub, it is a simple matter to just reach > > down and dry the cat. > > > > In a few days the cat will relax enough to be removed from > > your leg. He will usually have nothing to say for about > > three weeks and will spend a lot of time sitting with his > > back to you. > > > > He might even become psychoceramic and develop the fixed > > stare of a plaster figurine. > > > > You will be tempted to assume he is angry. > > > > This isn't usually the case. > > > > As a rule he is simply plotting ways to get through your > > defenses and injure you for life the next time you decide > > to give him a bath. > > > > But at least now he smells a lot better. > >top