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The most inane and disingenuous part of [potential director of the National Institutes of Health Francis S.] Collins’s argument is his claim that without religion, the concepts of good and evil are meaningless… That’s palpable nonsense. Good and evil are defined with respect to their effects and the intents of their perpetrators, not by adherence to some religious code. It is beyond my ken how a smart guy like Collins can make a claim like this, even going so far as to argue that “strong atheists” like Richard Dawkins have to accept and live their lives within a world in which good and evil are meaningless ideas. –“Francis Collins pollutes science with religion,” Jerry A. Coyne, Why Evolution Is True
The plug, which was combined with the USB connector, was extremely well designed, in the best post-Apple style. It was a very, very good plug. I turned the Kindle on and pressed the Home key. Home gives you the list of what you’ve got in your Kindle. There were some books that I’d already ordered waiting for me—that was nice—and there was also a letter of greeting from Jeff Bezos. “Kindle is an entirely new type of device, and we’re excited to have you as an early customer!” Bezos wrote. I read the letter and some of “His Majesty’s Dragon” (a dragon fantasy by Naomi Novick set during the Napoleonic Wars, given away free), “Gulliver’s Travels,” and “Slow Hands,” a freebie Harlequin Blaze novel by Leslie Kelly. I changed the type size. I searched for a text string. I tussled with a sense of anticlimax. –“A New Page,” Nicholson Baker, The New Yorker
When I first started calling traditional organizations letting them know that I wanted to help them, I was very afraid that they were going to hang up when I told them the name of the organization is the Harry Potter Alliance. And if I said, HP Alliance, they would think it was The Hewlett Packard Alliance. In fact, one of our board members has been getting mail to the Hewlett Packard Alliance. We’ve never referred to ourselves as the Hewlett Packard Alliance, but people see HP, and they think Hewlett Packard. (laughter) And that’s an alliance I don’t want to be part of. So (laughter) when I tell the organizations at first who we are, there’s this initial insecurity that I have on how they’re going to react, and at first that insecurity proved to be warranted because they didn’t know what to do with a group that is named after a fictitious book for young adults and plus, we had no track record. Though despite some challenges here and there, I must say that I was actually impressed with how open minded some people were. I think the best example of this is the Co-Founder of the ENOUGH Project John Prendergast. John is a policy expert on issues of international crisis and truly is a celebrated activist. But John actively looks for outside of the box ideas. When I met him in 2005 and told him about our new organization, my heart was pounding with nerves and he looked at me very intensely and basically said, “Dude. Comic books turned me into an activist. The least I can do is mention this in the book I’m writing with Cheadle.” And that’s Don Cheadle who starred in Hotel Rwanda. And this was crazy to me. And we are in that book, which was a New York Times best seller. It’s called Not On Our Watch: the Mission To End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond and it’s an excellent book. –“How ‘Dumbledore’s Army’ Is Transforming Our World: An Interview with the HP Alliance’s Andrew Slack (Part Two),” Henry Jenkins, Confessions of an Aca-Fan
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”