Here We Go Again

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Just a few interesting things I've stumbled across recently:
  • A Ceramics Parable: This is one of those stories I read, and I think to myself, that is so true. I then promptly forget all about it and when the time comes to reference it to make a point in an argument, I cannot find it. It is totally consistent with my experiences though. Here it is:
    The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
    You'd be amazed at just how much you could accomplish if you just rolled up your sleeves and gave it a shot. Planning is important too, but you need to be careful not to get too carried away with it. [the link chain on this goes all over the place... near as I can tell, the story originated from Monkey Magic via James McGee and eventually ened up on Photon Courier]
  • Mille Collines, Part One: Tacitus writes of his travels in Rwanda, including a brief history of the horrific genocide that took place there. Towards the end he talks about something that is nearly incomprehensible: "It is difficult to describe, and even callous to say, but there was almost an element of acquiescence in the victims' slaughter." He goes on to explain how he came to understand just how that was possible:
    Social conditioning, respect for hierarchy, a yearning for efficiency for its own sake, a tradition of state-run collective work in the corv�e, deference to authority at all costs -- these are the elements of a well-run genocide. The victimized Tutsi did not acquiesce because they were cowards, nor because they were weak fatalists (although surely fatalism was there). Those that acquiesced did so out of habit. They did so because theirs was a society that, in its moment of cruel crisis, valued process and form over content.
    Read the whole thing, as they say, and keep an eye out for part two.

    Part Two is now online:
    But they've been through genocide. And who are we to tell them what must be done after that? The RPF has learned to distrust and detest foreign advice, and the notion of the "international community" carries no moral weight with them. The international community stopped them from overthrowing Hutu Power before the genocide could occur; the international community facilitated the escape of the genocidaires and prolonged their work; the international community reprimanded them for retaliating against interahamwe cross-border raids; and the international community condemned their handling of returning Hutu refugees far more vigorously than it condemned the genocide itself. The international community has even contested Rwandan extradition requests of genocidaires abroad; it is not unheard-of for Rwanda to ask for a Hutu Power chief to be sent to Kigali for justice, only to have the United Nations tribunal in Arusha claim precedence. These things are stupefying and enraging to Rwandans, especially to Tutsis, and rightly so. Why, then, should we expect them to take the international community's advice on the killing of journalists and the rigging of elections?
  • Green Quagmire: Sylvain Galineau comments on honest environmentalism. A small quote from Dr Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace:
    Moore will be one of eight experts from around the world who will demonstrate from first-hand experience how environmental extremists deny destitute nations electricity, and deepen the poverty, malaria, malnutrition, tuberculosis and dysentery that kill their people.
    Ouch. There's lots of good stuff in Galineau's post, so check it out. Also on this topic, don't miss Michael Crichton's speech about the "environmental religion".
  • The Diary of Samuel Pepys: Presented in weblog format, complete with annotations (and you can enter your own annotations using their commenting system; the whole thing is powered by Movable Type). Cool stuff. [via Random Jottings]
  • The Howard Dean / John Dean Meme: This is an interesting (Freudian?) meme...
    ...refers to the many, unexplained instances in which political commentators refer to 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean as "John Dean". In all cases so far, this appears to be an completely unintended reference to the embittered former Whitehouse Counsel to President Nixon of Watergate fame.