Posts Tagged 'Quotes'



Foreign Service

One of the premises for my work in progress, The Other Side of the Sky is that the setting will include a loose analogy to Christians as citizens of the Holy City and ambassadors of that city to the world. With that in mind I’ve been reading a book called From Inside a US Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America where I came across the following descriptions. I thought they were especially interesting when considered in light of our spiritual calling as Believers in Christ:

“The Foreign Service is a career like no other. It is much more than a job; it is a uniquely demanding and rewarding way of life. As representatives of the United States (Ed: or the kingdom of God?) to foreign governments, Foreign Service members have a direct impact on people’s lives and witness history in the making. They work alongside highly talented colleagues and face the unexpected every day, in situations that push their ingenuity and creativity to the limit.

“But a Foreign Service career also imposes significant demands. Typically, Foreign Service members spend two-thirds of their careers overseas, sometimes in unhealthy or isolated locations. They live for extended periods of time far from parents, siblings, and old friends, and sometimes without familiar amenities or modern medical facilities. Due to increasing international terrorism, [they] face physical danger and may be required to serve an ‘unaccompanied’ tour or to remain at their duty posts in harm’s way after their families are evacuated.”

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Opinions are not Equal

Saw this today on Rush Limbaugh’s site and thought he expressed it so well, I wanted to share.

I don’t fall in the PC trap that every opinion has validity. It doesn’t. Opinions which are wrong are worthless. And just because you might be wrong with your opinion and you are human and you have feelings and shouldn’t be insulted, if you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and I’m not afraid to tell anybody they’re wrong. I’m not afraid to tell myself I’m wrong. It doesn’t happen much, that’s why, but you’re never going to be properly educated unless you eventually tell yourself you’re wrong. “My opinion counts just as much as –” no, it doesn’t if it’s wrong. “Yes, it does Mr. Limbaugh, my opinion is valid. I think I have a brain and my opinion –” If you’re wrong, you’re wrong.                        ~Rush Limbaugh, December 10, 2009

I will add that I believe everyone has the right to hold an opinion, valid or not,and while I don’t think you should be afraid to tell someone they are wrong, I also think that it’s mostly unnecessary — futile, even —  to go around trying to straighten people out.  Freedom guarantees us the right to hold whatever opinions we desire. If our thoughts and opinions are foolish, and we act upon them in foolish ways, we will pay the price. Rush, however, is an entertainer and an educator and the whole point of his show is to express his opinion. If you don’t like it you don’t have to listen. But I did think his point that all opinions are not equal was dead on.

Quote: Predicting Poorly, Unawares

The inability to predict outliers (events which lie outside the realm of regular expectations) implies the inability to predict the course of history, given the share of these events in the dynamics of events.

But we act as though we are able to predict historical events, or, even worse, as if we are able to change the course of history. We produce thirty year projections of social security deficits and oil prices without realizing that we cannot even predict these for next summer — our cumulative prediction errors for political and economic events are so monstrous that every time I look at the empirical record I have to pinch myself  to verify I am not dreaming. What is surprising is not the magnitude of our forecast errors, but our absence of awareness of it…

Our inability to predict in environments subjected to the Black Swan, coupled with a general lack of the awareness of this state of affairs, means that certain professionals, while believing they are experts, are in fact not. Based on their empirical record, they do not know more about their subject matter than the general population, but they are much better at narrating — or worse, at smoking you with complicated mathematical models. They are also more likely to wear a tie.

From the Prologue of  The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Quote Of Note: Con Men and the Gullible

“Con men understand that their job is not to use facts to convince skeptics but to use words to help the gullible to believe what they want to believe.

“No message has been more welcomed by the gullible, in countries around the world, than the promise of something for nothing. 

 ~Thomas Sowell

(From his September 11, 2009  National Review Online article “Charlatan-in-Chief“)

Wealth and Poverty

I don’t read many blogs but one of the ones I do read, several times a week, is Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers. Hanson is a professor of classics and military history at the Hoover Institution of Stanford, and professor of Classics Emeritis at Cal State Fresno. He’s also a farmer. I’ve quoted from him before, and from Raymond Ibrahim, one of the men who occasionally contributes to his page.

Back in November I saved an excerpt from one of his essays (the save is dated 11/14/08) wherein he reflected upon wealth and poverty. I didn’t save the link to the actual essay, and I’m not sure there’d be one anyway, because tonight at least, the archives only turn up a 401 error message.

Oh well. I really liked what he had to say in this quote which is about wealth, and comparing the difference between the wealthy of this country and the not so wealthy. And the truth is, the difference isn’t all that great, and the trade-offs not all that unbalanced:

Although I do better now [economically; better than he did when he was younger], I have no envy or anger at those who make big money. Here are a couple of considerations about the current furor over the Obamatax hikes that, with income and payroll combined with state and Medicare, could put some incomes in the 65% tax bite.

First, it is their money, not mine. I long ago realized that an academic enjoys all sorts of perks, summers off, sabbaticals, free time that higher-paid CEOs or doctors and lawyers do not. Each person to some degree has some free will about the sort of work, sacrifice, and unpleasantness necessary to endure to alter his income.

This is the 21st century, not the 19th. Those who make $40,000 or $80,000 or $1,000,000 per year all pretty much have hot water for their showers. Their tap water doesn’t sicken them, and they watch about the same TV shows and mostly have cell phones. Mass consumerism, easy credit, and technology have blurred the distinctions between wealth and poverty.

That I buy a Wal-Mart sweat suit to ride a bike in the winter for $20 does not mean that I am any colder than the Manhattan exec who buys one with a designer label version for $150 at a boutique on Park Avenue. His $20 million-dollar penthouse apartment is no warmer or cooler than my Selma farmhouse. As far as the private jet, the yacht, the 5 homes, I’d prefer to fly commercial, rent a kayak, and have trouble enough keeping two toilets running and the hot water heater from silting up without worrying about either 50 of them or a staff of 5 to oversee them all.

So the advantages of wealth are more of a status thing and free choices of recreation or more leisure time than a vast difference in material conditions.

 As Americans we are incredibly blessed, and I think we take those blessings for granted. Yes, my swamp cooler is not the greatest when the heat and humidity are both high. But it’s WAY better than no cooler at all, which a lot of people on this world suffer through.

I get to eat pretty much what I want to eat, go where I want to go, do what I want to do. If I want to sleep in, I can. If I want to read a book, I can. Staying home may not give me a lot of prestige and status in the eyes of others, but my freedom is invaluable. Yes, we don’t have a cell phone, or cable, or a plasma screen TV. But we do have a phone, and we have an antenna and a TV. 

Today I went to the store to buy a new MP3 player and the first thing I thought was about the vast array of choices.  How would I decide? Well, it soon became evident that most of the choices offered features I had no interest in. I don’t want to play videos on the credit card-sized screen (I can’t imagine I would ever have wanted to do that, even back when I could see things that small!) I don’t want to send or look at photos. I don’t want 500 songs… I just want something I can download my Bible class lessons to, so I can listen while doing my chores.

And that’s what I got. But still, I have it. And I’d say, worldwide, many don’t. If you pull in all the people who’ve ever lived, I’m in like the .05% of prosperity. I think it’s good to reflect on all the blessings we have. There’s too much talk of things wrong, and things we can’t have, and all the “suffering” we have in this country when really that’s just ridiculous. All the things people must do without, when really, most of us live better than kings of old.


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