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Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers - The New York Times
Opinion | Tips for Aspiring Op-Ed Writers
Bret Stephens As a summertime service for readers of the editorial pages who may wish someday to write for them, here’s a list of things I’ve learned over the…
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15 hours ago by Raymond1974
The Antidote to Being Spread Too Thin
I’ve been feeling spread thin lately and this has given me some keys to fixing the problem.
articles  business  process  requiredreading 
15 hours ago by scottboms
What Are We Doing Here? | by Marilynne Robinson | The New York Review of Books
We have thought we were being cynical when we insisted that people universally are motivated by self-interest. Would God it were true! Hamlet’s rumination on the twenty thousand men going off to fight over a territory not large enough for them all to be buried in, going to their graves as if to their beds, shows a much sounder grasp of human behavior than this. It acknowledges a part of it that shows how absurdly optimistic our “cynicism” actually is. President Obama not long ago set off a kerfuffle among the press by saying that these firestorms of large-scale violence and destruction are not unique to Islamic culture or to the present time. This is simple fact, and it is also fair warning, if we hope to keep our own actions and reactions within something like civilized bounds. This would be one use of history.

But there is an impulse behind the recent assaults on great institutions that is historically expressed as social engineering. The ideal worker will not have a head full of poetry, say the neo-Benthamites. It is assumed, of course, that he or she will be potentially omnicompetent in service to the ever-changing needs and demands of the new economy—highly trained, that is, to acquire some undescribed skill set that will be proof against obsolescence. We await particulars. But the object is clear—to create a virtual army out of the general population who will compete successfully against whomever for whatever into an endless future, at profound cost to themselves. All this differs from military engagement in one great particular. The generals are always assumed to be free to abandon their armies and go over to the other side, if there is profit in it.

What are we doing here, we professors of English? Our project is often dismissed as elitist. That word has a new and novel sting in American politics. This is odd, in a period uncharacteristically dominated by political dynasties. Apparently the slur doesn’t stick to those who show no sign of education or sophistication, no matter what their pedigree. Be that as it may. There is a fundamental slovenliness in much public discourse that can graft heterogeneous things together around a single word. There is justified alarm about the bizarre concentrations of wealth that have occurred globally, and the tiny fraction of the wealthiest one percent who have wildly disproportionate influence over the lives of the rest of us. They are called the elite, and so are those of us who encourage the kind of thinking that probably does make certain of the young less than ideal recruits to their armies of the employed.

If there is a point where the two meanings overlap, it would be in the fact that the teaching we do is what in America we have always called liberal education, education appropriate to free people, very much including those old Iowans who left the university to return to the hamlet or the farm. Now, in a country richer than any they could have imagined, we are endlessly told we must cede that humane freedom to a very uncertain promise of employability. It seems most unlikely that any oligarch foresees this choice as being forced on his or her own children. I note here that these criticisms and pressures are not brought to bear on our private universities, though most or all of them receive government money. Elitism in its classic sense is not being attacked but asserted and defended.

We are, as we have always been, dangerous creatures, the enemies of our own happiness. But the only help we have ever found for this, the only melioration, is in mutual reverence. God’s grace comes to us unmerited, the theologians say. But the grace we could extend to one another we consider it best to withhold in very many cases, presumptively, or in the absence of what we consider true or sufficient merit (we being more particular than God), or because few gracious acts, if they really deserve the name, would stand up to a cost-benefit analysis. This is not the consequence of a new atheism, or a systemic materialism that afflicts our age more than others. It is good old human meanness, which finds its terms and pretexts in every age. The best argument against human grandeur is the meagerness of our response to it, paradoxically enough.

Then how to recover the animating spirit of humanism? For one thing, it would help if we reclaimed, or simply borrowed, conceptual language that would allow us to acknowledge that some things are so brilliant they can only be understood as virtuosic acts of mind, thought in the pure enjoyment of itself, whether in making a poem or a scientific discovery, or just learning something it feels unaccountably good to know. There is an unworldliness in the experience, and in what it yields, that requires a larger understanding than our terse vocabularies of behavior and reward can capture. I have had students tell me that they had never heard the word “beautiful” applied to a piece of prose until they came to us at the workshop. Literature had been made a kind of data to illustrate, supposedly, some graceless theory that stood apart from it, and that would be shed in a year or two and replaced by something post- or neo- and in any case as gracelessly irrelevant to a work of language as whatever it displaced. I think this phenomenon is an effect of the utilitarian hostility to the humanities and to art, an attempt to repackage them, to give them some appearance of respectability. And yet, the beautiful persists, and so do eloquence and depth of thought, and they belong to all of us because they are the most pregnant evidence we can have of what is possible in us.
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16 hours ago by NeilThomas
Blockchain and the future of distributed computing - O'Reilly Media
Blockchain and the future of distributed computing
Operations Follow this topic Follow this topic Catherine Mulligan discusses the implications of blockchain on distributed systems and what needs to be addressed…
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yesterday by Raymond1974
Edna Lewis - Wikipedia
Mrs. Lewis was an amazing woman and chef.
foodhistory  articles 
yesterday by jonellnapper
Nicki Minaj, Always in Control - The New York Times
Nicki Minaj, Always in Control
This story is one of the seven covers of T Magazine’s Greats issue , on newsstands Oct. 22. THE DAY I WAIT in the hotel lobby of the Ritz-Carlton in Battery…
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yesterday by Raymond1974
Scrivener Review: Best Word Processing App for iPad and iPhone | iPhoneLife.com
Scrivener Review: Best Word Processing App for iPad and iPhone
iPhone and iPad word processors are nearly as plentiful on the App Store as flashlight apps. In order to stand out from the crowded selection, developers need…
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2 days ago by carlosfusa

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