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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
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”