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Archive for December 23rd, 2012

The circle in the swirl

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — the one prediction that never fails to amaze is “surprise”! ]


There are two great paeans to diversity that my mind constantly recurs to: the Svalbard global seed vault, with its more than 750,000 distinct varieties of seed deposited in “black boxes” by various national genebanks — and the Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins‘ great poem, Pied Beauty:

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

The world is fundamentally dappled: look where you will, you will find general rules — and unexpected exceptions. The whole Syrian opposition business is dappled, it’s a mixed bag, it’s subtle.

I dunno, maybe this can be my motto: keep it subtle, stupid.


Seen from another angle… variety is, as they say, the spice of life.

Or as the Qur’an puts it (49:13):

O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you. God is All-knowing, All-aware.

Finding a novel use for my two-quote format..

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

[ by Charles Cameron — on straight shooting, but more about logic than guns ]


If you tie me down across some railroad tracks (no, that’s not me) and I can feel a train coming and you say you’ll cut me loose if and only if I vote for or against “gun control” I’ll hastily but reluctantly admit to being for it.

The haste, you’ll understand, comes from my not wishing to be cut in three or four by the onrushing train, while the reluctance comes from my sense that my political opinions, such as they are, are usually more indicative of my generally kindly nature than of any rigorous analysis of likely first, second, third and nth order impacts of whatever it is we’re discussing.

But okay, my sympathies are with gun control — while my awareness of my own ignorance prompts me not to put much stock in those sympathies.


But then I come across this article in Forbes, which disturbs me enough to prompt me into a new idea, a novel use for my SPECS or DoubleQuotes format.

I’ll use that format to present you with two paragraphs from that article, one of them slightly abridged, which follow one another directly. And my question for you, as you read them, is how can the authors get from the top paragraph, with all its questions and cautious qualifications, to the one immediately below it, with its claim of unquestioning certainty.

I’d say that the paragraph that immediately follows the first one doesn’t follow from it at all, logically speaking — I’d say there’s a non sequitur in there. And for me, that’s a novel use of the two quotes format — to suggest that someone is taking an impermissible leap.


Because as far as I can see, the only way to get from the first paragraph to the second is via a leap of hope — a determination, present from the beginning, to arrive at a fixed conclusion, in this case, that firing guns is addictive.

As I’ve said, I have some sympathy with gun control legislation — but I don’t much like it when sympathies masquerade as science, even when I share them.

So what do we call that kind of leap?

Leaping to a hasty conclusion? Jumping the gun, perhaps? Jumping the shark?

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