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Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Value

Something that is valuable without strings attached has intrinsic value. I find intrinsic value is far more reliable than extrinsic value, because it’s self-reliant, independent, and free of the influence of others. The opposite of intrinsic value is extrinsic value. I like “extrinsic” as a word, but don’t see it used much. What it means is the value is assigned to the item by external forces. The item is worthless on its own. Or perhaps it has a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic value, so it is simply less valuable.

One thing that’s hard to accept about intrinsic vs. extrinsic value is that it’s a sliding scale with different paradigms. Nothing is binary. Something that has intrinsic value in one context and have no value in another. You might think the item has extrinsic value, and from a completely objective perspective it might, but it’s entirely okay to call its value intrinsic for the sake of comparison.

A great example of the two types of value is money. At the extreme end we have currencies made of paper and backed by nothing more than military might. These are called fiat currencies, because they’re valuable by legislative fiat (an order). The United States has fiat currency. My money has no value unless other people agree that it does and will exchange goods or services for it. It cannot be turned in for anything of value (besides coins), more of it can be created at virtually no cost at any time, and if all confidence is lost in it, it doesn’t even make good toilet paper. The money’s value is entirely extrinsic. In fact, it’s declined considerably in my short life. I remember in 2002 when gasoline was 85¢ a gallon, but now it’s over $4. It’s not because of shortages—there’s plenty of higher priced gas available. In terms of fuel, my money is one-fifth as valuable as it was six years ago. Granted, the increased prices are also due to the oil companies joining to form monopolies, but if our money had value that was fully intrinsic, such massive losses would be impossible.

Now, the U.S. dollar has not always been fiat. Before Nixon abandoned the Bretton Woods system in 1971, you could trade in a dollar for 1/35 an ounce of gold. So it had intrinsic value. During the world wars, convertibility was abandoned so more money could be printed, so for a time there was no intrinsic value. But even under Bretton Woods, paper dollars didn’t even have intrinsic value so much as representative intrinsic value. They’re still worth nothing on a deserted island, but as long as we were under the current system of things, their value may as well have been intrinsic, because they could be exchanged for something solid. The value was never fully intrinsic, or else Nixon wouldn’t have been able to pull the plug.

A step up from paper currencies are metal currencies, like the dimes and nickels in your ash trays. Though illegal, in times of panic they can be melted down to build real things, because they’re made of metal, not worthless paper. Gold and silver coins are even better, because people universally value those metals. However, as building materials, they are less valuable. Going back to paper, the bills in my wallet have some intrinsic value I forgot about. If it’s very cold and I need kindling to start a fire, I’ll be happy for my stack of $1’s.

The king of all currencies is gold bullion. It’s never going away, because people universally believe it has value. Its value is unchanging and largely intrinsic. When I see the worth of an ounce of gold is soaring above $1000, I don’t buy the hype that the gold has more value. What’s actually happening is that our dollar is becoming less valuable, but gold is the same as ever. Now, if you can buy more with $1000 of July 2008 money than you could with, say, $500 of July 2001 money, that’s doesn’t mean gold has gained value. It just means everyone is taking losses, by providing goods that are worth more than the money they charge. When the empire (the United States) is dying, everyone takes losses.

Even gold doesn’t have the true, objective type of intrinsic value I talked about at the start. If you’re back on your deserted island, all the gold in the world won’t do nothing to get you out of there. An airplane is something with solid intrinsic value. But you still need fuel, a pilot, and lots of other stuff. Heck, you even have to depend on the laws of physics remaining stable so that it continues working. But most of us would agree that little of its value is extrinsic, so those concerns are small. If all 6.5 billion of us agreed tomorrow that gold is as worthless as water, it would be that way in an instant, though.

Some things have intrinsic value that’s fleeting. The apples at the grocery market are valuable as food, but as soon as they turn rotten, the value is lost. The same can be said for human life: my Grandfather has no intrinsic value, because he’s dead and burned. Nor does my cousin, in spite of being dead and preserved in a coffin. The only value of his body is assigned, because many of us believe in stuffing and preserving corpses for some reason. We believe a corpse has value, but that’s extrinsic to the corpse. A person does have intrinsic value, but only while living. Value shifts from intrinsic to extrinsic upon death. Extrinsic value is not universal, either. My family values my cousin’s corpse much more than my neighbor’s. Extrinsic value can be fleeting. A lottery ticket is valuable extrinsically, but only till the numbers are called. Then it’s worth nothing. If it’s a winner (never happens), the value shoots up all at once, but it’s still extrinsic, just like the coupons in my wallet, because it’s reliant on fulfillment by others. Intrinsic value is not, or in relative cases, it’s reliant on unlikely-to-change entities like society or a humongous government, so it’s always a safer bet.

Where you can use the two types of value in your life, is in analyzing the time and money pits around you. Recognize that if you’re pursuing goals with extrinsic value, your goals belong not to yourself, but to other people. Sometimes, supporting the goals of others is inevitable. Florida Power & Light will cut off my family’s power if we refuse to continue to pay them in extrinsically valuable money. Could we live without power? Probably, but it isn’t practical. I couldn’t even share this writing with you without the power for my computer. Money is something most people value by mandate, despite being extrinsic. It even says on my $1 bill, “this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private,” so I’m required to accept money as a valid form of payment even if I open a business. The business isn’t truly mine if I’m required to give people valuable stuff for in return for crap (fiat money). But I accept that I have no alternative with what power I have now. There’s a massive gulf between this lost freedom and the lost freedom you are probably subjecting yourself to.

One thing that definitely has no intrinsic value is a college degree. A college education has intrinsic value, but only to the person receiving it, and then only if it is applied. A modern college education is utterly worthless. College is a crock. You’re trained to be a docile slave for any master and brainwashed to tell lies as truth to support the state. Lies like global warming, the cancer myth, and politically-correct language. Instead of learning real stuff like history or how to spell, you have to read and write garbage about The Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s worth less than nothing. College saps your mind and spirit. It is a self-accepted prison and you are a self-accepting prisoner. I am currently a prisoner with you, unfortunately.

What a college education does have, is plenty of extrinsic value. Employers, in cahoots with the universities, agree to accept only mind slaves with worthless degrees for jobs. Or perhaps they’ll accept anyone, but pay you much more if you’ve gone through four to six years of obedience school (on top of thirteen years of mandatory training). College is a job where instead of being paid, you pay. Can’t you see the irony there? You learn B.S. subjects like humanities and calculus, wasting upwards of thirty hours a week “studying,” when really you’re just memorizing pointless trivia and useless formulas to reiterate for a test and then forget. A typical collegiate essay is a series of citations, footnotes, references, maybes, “he or she”s, “what if”s, and semicolons. Nothing is from the heart, everything is crap, and no one would read it if they weren’t being paid. There’s no growth and you’re not developing as a person, despite how you may protest. College is at best an expensive social experience, and even that is on shaky ground.

A college education is firmly in the category of extrinsic value. Unlike universal concepts like serving others, inspiration, and passion, and working for yourself, college is ultimately a waste of time. It’s okay to do things with extrinsic value, even if they cost huge amounts of time and money. Repeat after me: “I, Richard X. Thripp, allow myself to pursue projects that have no intrinsic value.” BUT, you cannot live in fear by deluding yourself into believing you’re acting on some higher purpose. There is no higher purpose to my college education. Tasks with only extrinsic value must only be pursued for utilitarian purposes, should you claim to be living courageously.

Buying things that have mere extrinsic value, unless to resell, is something I cannot live with. Diamonds are an example. Unlike gold, they have no intrinsic value because they’re as common as dirt. One company (De Beers) controls all of them, releases very few, and advertises how wonderful and valuable they are. De Beers has managed to make diamonds extrinsically valuable to an insane degree. If you can make yourself (or a product) highly valuable, you can make a lot of money, even if it’s extrinsic.

Intrinsic value is the only path that has a soul, though. In sociological terms, coordinated efficiency (i.e. teamwork) represents intrinsic value, whereas allocated efficiency (i.e. buy the best people) is to extrinsic value. Money has its place: it represents you contribution to the world (either type of value), and it can be exchanged for goods and services of either type (food vs. diamonds). But if you do something for money alone, that means it has only extrinsic value, be it to yourself, the world, or both. With my website, I hope I’m doing something of intrinsic value to others, and I know it has intrinsic value to myself. I take, post, and give away creative photos, write free and hopefully insightful articles, and develop as a person through all of it. If you’re doing something of intrinsic value, you’ll know it because you’re energized, dedicated, and excited about it. If you don’t feel the heat, you might be providing a service that’s intrinsically valuable to others, but not to yourself. If I fixed computers for a living, it would be an important service to others, but it wouldn’t do anything for me. The other thing that can happen, is that you’re doing something you love (intrinsic value for you), but its worthless to others. Perhaps it is painting, playing piano, or taking nature photographs. What you want to do is to find something that’s intrinsically valuable to you and others, or convert what you’re presently doing over. Often, this just involves publishing your art online, or releasing a music album by burning the CDs on your home computer. But when you’re on the path of good for yourself and the world, everything will feel right.

While it takes a lot of soul-searching to reach the goal, I can tell you some of the clues that you’re on the wrong path. If you’re not sharing it with others, it can’t have any value to others. The first step to converting something that’s valuable to you but not to others is to show it to them. If you’ve written an awesome book but can’t find a publisher, just set up a blog and give it away free in installments. Tell a few friends about it. If it’s interesting or useful, lots of people will pick up on it and visit. You’ll know this because you’ll be getting lots of comments and trackbacks, and your bandwidth meter will be maxing out quickly. If this doesn’t happen, it means you suck. It’s okay. Right now I suck. But sucking is the only way to progress.

Once you’ve built you a following and love what you’re writing, you’ve already made it. It doesn’t matter if you’re giving everything away and losing money. If you have a website, and a lot of visitors, it’s impossible not to make money. Then put ads across the site. Register for Amazon Associates too, then start dropping product links everywhere, like this. Soon, you’ll be making money off something that’s intrinsically valuable to everyone, which is great. A lot of people will try to tell you that you can’t do it, you have to pick between money or heart, and that you should keep your day job and just follow your passion on the side. Ignore them and forge ahead.

If you’re working for a corporation with no intrinsic value, it probably puts up a smokescreen of purposeful charity to substitute. Instead of changing the world directly, the company donates a couple percent to charity. This is the “throw money at the problem” mindset, and instead of integrating charitable practices into the business, it’s just tacked on as a “me too” afterthought. Corporations like Wal-Mart, Target, and Publix do this. Then, they’ll come up with some phony mission statement for their employees, like Office Depot’s “delivering winning solutions that inspire worklife.” I couldn’t help but laugh hysterically when I first heard that one. Next, require all the employees to wear shirts with the mission statement and chant it over the intercom.

Ask any candid Office Depot employee if he cares about the mission, and the answer will be an obvious no. Very few people who work there, or have any sort of job, do so for an intrinsically valuable purpose. “For the greater good of all humanity” is an excellent purpose, but most companies that bandy it about don’t believe it. It is of extrinsic value to them. It’s fake, a charade to fool dummies and investors. You’re never living intrinsically if you’re living fakely. It’s better to work for a company with the mission, “to make the most money possible, at all costs.” Or live your life like it. But that’s a petty experience. Most companies are not that bad. They have a decent amount of respect for their customers and employees. But to call themselves charity cases is false and pretentious.

What else is only of extrinsic value? Certification. Education. Expensive clothes (unless radiation proof). Rites of passage. Careers. Tradition. Rules and procedures. Legacies. Religion. Sleeping at night. Clocks. Being an employee. Corpses. Funerals. All these have no value on their own. Only if other people agree, or demand them, do they become valuable, and then only extrinsically. Don’t be too worried about them. They’re red herrings.

What things do have intrinsic value? Love. Doing what you love. Purpose. Learning. Passion. Discipline. Wealth (for leverage). Power (the power to know better). Respect for human life. Serving others. Serving yourself (you have to to serve others). The list goes on, but you can see that aligning yourself with these principles, and paying no attention to the ones of extrinsic value will alienate a lot of would-be friends. Do it anyway.

The Cancer Myth

Our “treatments” for cancer are no good, kill everyone, and waste a lot of money. The cure for cancer is simple and has been widely known for thousands of years, but is kept hidden from the typical American. But first, let’s tackle some of the arguments for our beloved cut/burn/poison regimen.

Investment is nothing. It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been “treating” people with cancer and letting people die. It doesn’t matter that we have billions of dollars and lives invested in our phony treatments, or how many relatives and friends you’ve lost through traditional treatment. No matter how far we’ve gone, we must turn back. There is no progress to be had on this path, no matter how we are invested in it. We were invested in alchemy too.

We are told there are many different types of cancer… and many different treatments… and no easy solutions. The best recommendation is to be constantly tested for cancer, to constantly avoid “known” carcinogens, to constantly fear everything. We have to check your skin, your breasts, your cervix, your ovaries, your prostate, your colon, and a whole bunch of other stuff, every year for the rest of your life. The most prolific unveiler of known carcinogens is the state of California. Everything causes cancer there. I bought a computer mouse with a tag on it warning that the cord has lead in it and can cause cancer, says California. Obviously, there’s somewhere the money is going. The money is going to the companies who produce the goods that continually replace the goods that are supposedly cancer-causing. Our cars cause cancer. Smoking causes lung cancer. Drinking causes liver cancer. Sunshine causes skin cancer. Radiation causes cancer, yet also kills it when it’s convenient to us. Really, what’s up with that? If radiation causes cancer, how does chemotherapy work? It exposes you to radiation. So the best it can do is riddle you with cancer, following the cancer industry’s rules. Pesticides cause new and exciting types of cancer. Cell phones cause brain cancer. Everything causes cancer.

Cancer is no ordinary disease. It’s a legend. You don’t overcome cancer like any normal disease. You “fight” a long and unsuccessful “war” against cancer, then die. Cancer makes you sick, tired, emaciated, and hairless. Really, none of this is the cancer. It’s the phoney-baloney treatment of cancer. You aren’t losing the hair from the disease, you’re losing it from being irradiated in the name of destroying it. The best it can do is kill off the cancer for a while, followed by its return (because it’s a vitamin deficiency). Then, we hit you with more gamma rays, and instead of the disease killing you, our treatment does you in. You’ve weakened, but the cancer is stronger than ever. Because it isn’t something that can be solved by treatment.

Cancer is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B17, also called laetrile or amygdalin. According to the Food & Drug Administration, vitamin B17 isn’t a vitamin anymore. It has no value, it does nothing, it could even be dangerous, it can’t be in stores, and doctors can’t dare recommend it. The vitamin isn’t added to our foods. In fact, if it’s there, that food is dangerous to us, and the vitamin is removed before we buy the food. You find vitamin B17 in the seeds of fruits, seeds like apricots, peaches, watermelons, and loquats. Common knowledge tells you that eating seeds is a dangerous, deadly thing to do. They have cyanide in them. Cyanide? Won’t that kill you? It’ll kill you the same way sodium chloride (table salt) kills you. The deadliness of the ingredients means nothing, because when they’re assembled in a different order, there is no danger. This is why your breakfast was delicious and didn’t make you sick, but if you ground it all up (milk and orange juice included) in a blender, and then drank that, you wouldn’t be feeling so well. It’s the same concept with vitamin B17’s cyanide.

We don’t eat seeds anymore. You parents probably told you to throw out the seeds from those apples. “Never eat the seeds,” they say. If you buy an apple pie at the bakery, you can bet the seeds have been taken out. At the same time, many victims of cancer get better from the chemotherapy. Why? Because they were deathly afraid of the disease, and while pursuing traditional treatment, they went to the local health foods store and ate everything in sight. One of those foods had vitamin B17 in it. The patient doesn’t even know what it was, but he continues to eat it as his miracle cure. Perhaps he bought a jar of pumpkin seeds. Either way, it works. But his doctor says, “it looks like the radiation finally started working!” That’s how chemo gets its 5% cure rate for cancer (otherwise it would be 0%). Yes, nineteen of twenty die, despite radiation treatment. What kind of odds are those? What other disease do you claim to be making great progress on, you pour a third of the nation’s medical expenses into, you have more people treating than suffering, and 95% of your people still die? Old age is the only one I can think of, and that’s not a disease to start with. The only effective treatment we have is to screen you constantly and then cut pieces out of you when we find cancerations.

But the seeds, the seeds are what you need to eat to cure cancer. But even if you don’t have cancer yet, you need to eat them every day starting now, or else you’ll get cancer. Cancer doesn’t run in families. People will say, “I got cancer because my father and grandfather had it.” But the fact is that they shared the same diet, a diet excluding B17, and that’s why they all got cancer. Just like if none of you eat oranges, you’ll get scurvy. But you probably won’t even get scurvy, because vitamin C is added to all sorts of foods by government mandate. Not the same can be said for B17. If you and your family has never gotten cancer, it’s because you’re eating something that has the vitamin in it, that is preventing you from contracting the ailment. You don’t “cure” cancer so much as you prevent it, just as you prevent hunger and thirst by eating and drinking. To keep from dying from hunger requires continuous action. You must eat food regularly or you will die, no buts about it. The same is true with cancer. No ionizing machine or ray gun is going to keep you from dying of thirst, just as no mechanical, ridiculously expensive medical treatment is going to save you from death by cancer. There is only one type of cancer, for which there is one cure.

Almost no one treating cancer knows its true cause. No conspiracy works when everyone has all the answers. But the answer has been known in other countries for thousands of years. Even the Bible tells you to eat the seeds of the fruits, and to eat your “daily bread.” Bread used to have lots of seeds in it, seeds that had vitamin B17. But now the seeds are taken out. There is no cancer-preventing vitamin to be had in our food. This is why despite plowing so much money into cancer, more people than ever are suffering from it. We’re told now that one in two of our children will contract cancer at some point in their lives. What kind of disease is this? Obviously one we have no idea how to treat. Whatever we are doing, it’s completely failing.

If you contract cancer, and you dare not to be “treated,” no one will support you. Your family will be against you. Your doctors will be against you. You must do things the “right” way. If you have any chance of living, it’s only by being cut, burned, and poisoned. You have to do it. If your below 18 or there’s any shadow of doubt about your sanity, chemotherapy will be forced upon you, because everyone wants to see you die.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. In Central Florida, we have all these loquat trees with fruit (a.k.a. Japanese plums), and they have big seeds in them that have lots of the vitamin. My Dad and I eat a couple of them a day. We froze them when the fruits were in-season, and thaw them out bit by bit, chewing them up and swallowing them with water. So now I know I’ll never get cancer. I’ll never get cancer, so long as I eat seeds with vitamin B17 in them on a regular basis. Just like I’ll never develop a goiter if I eat foods with iodine in them. Salt has iodine added to it. No processed foods have B17 added to them, so you need to find it yourself. Just like you don’t wait till you’re dying of scurvy to start eating oranges, you shouldn’t wait till you’re dying of cancer to start eating seeds.

I haven’t covered the proof behind vitamin B17. Instead, I’ve focused on how our “normal” treatments for cancer are such blatant failures. Anything is better than what we have now, even if it does nothing. But B17 does something. It prevents cancer. We’re not eating it, and that’s why we have cancer. There’s no danger in eating seeds either way. I’ve been doing it for months. But there’s real proof that the vitamin stops cancer, because cancer is a metabolic disease cured by B17, just like beriberi, pellagra, and scurvy, are cured by B1, B3, and C. You can’t cure a metabolic disease with technology. Only restoring the essential food your body needs can solve the problem. I recommend these online pages for further information:

1. World Without Cancer
2. VitaminB17.org
3. Laetrile / Vitamin B17 Treatment For Cancer
4. Cure and Prevent Cancer — B17
5. Laetrile and Information on Vitamin B17
6. Unapproved by the FDA — You’ll never see B17 at the pharmacy, because the FDA refuses to test natural chemicals.
7. Loquat nut any good? — An interesting forum discussion about loquat fruits. Notice how the early posters warn about how the seeds will poison you with cyanide. It’s a lie: I eat them all the time. But they’re just repeating what they’ve been told by the American Cancer Society, because it’s in their interest to keep cancer going. Then the later posters get into the truth: the seeds cure cancer, are not poisonous, and are used all over Japan to prevent the disease.

Good luck, and don’t live in darkness. All the things we say cause cancer actually have nothing to do with it. But that doesn’t mean those things are good. Sunshine still burns, smoke still irritates your lungs, and you still have emphysema to worry about. But if we can get the legendary cancer out of the way, then we’re well on our way to a healthier world.

One thing that definitely does not stop cancer, is happiness. You can’t laugh or motivate your way our of cancer. It just doesn’t work that way. There are plenty of things you can use your willpower on, like becoming smarter, more creative, more productive, more insightful, more courageous, or more disciplined. Curing cancer isn’t one of them. If attitude makes any difference, it’s 0.0001% of the equation, and the vitamin is 99.9999%. It’s so insignificant that it is completely unuseful. Apply your good spirits not to falsehood, but to truth.

Postscript

I’ve learned more about cancer and included the section below in Becoming a Vegetarian (2008-10-01):

Vegetarians don’t get cancer

It’s true. You expect me to say that it’s because we have healthier diets overall, but it’s not that at all. You can eat meat all day and still never get cancer.

When you are injured, your body sends trophoblast cells to heal the wound. But sometimes it sends too many, and your body doesn’t have any way to deal with these cells. The healing cells can split very quickly… and they do, crowding out all the others to form a cancerous growth.

But nature has a remedy for this: amygdalin (a.k.a. vitamin B17) is found in the seeds of almost all foods, and it allows the body to break down the protective walls around the cancerous cells, gobbling them up before they become a problem. It also appears in dark green leafy vegetables, grass, and everywhere else. Most people get none of it because they only eat processed foods which have it removed, and that’s why they get cancer.

Vegetarians tend not to get cancer because they tend to eat more Earthly foods, BUT, you can easily avoid cancer by eating foods with vitamin B17 every day. That means you should eat apple, apricot, pumpkin, and watermelon seeds. Citrus seeds don’t do much. In Central Florida we get yellow, plum-shaped loquat fruits a month out of the year, which have big seeds with lots of the cancer-fighting vitamin. My Dad had frozen quite a few of these and I’d been eating them daily, but we’ve run out so I’m back with apple seeds now.

Cancer is a vitamin deficiency like scurvy, meaning that you have to change your diet permanently to avoid it. There is no “cure” so much as there is prevention. People will tell you not to eat seeds because they have cyanide in them, but in fact, the form it’s in does no harm. I ate two apples, complete with seeds, yesterday, and seeds the day before, and the day before that, and more, without ever feeling so much as a stomach ache.

And I will never get cancer, which is quite nice. If you don’t eat seeds, everything is in fact a carcinogen, because anything that causes the body to dispatch healing cells could create cancer. If you get stabbed or shot, cancer might form there. If you bump your head, you’re open for brain cancer. If you smoke, the irritation in your lungs causes too many healing cells to be assigned, which fester as lung cancer. If you stay out in the sun, you get sunburns which result in skin cancer. But when you’re getting the cancer-fighting vitamin, none of these are a concern. Not even radiation. Of course, it’s still bad for you because it damages your cells, just as smoking will merit you emphysema.

There is only one form of cancer with one prevention and cure. The Rise and Fall of Laetrile (laetrile is a purified form of B17) may say otherwise, but the fact is their testing was on people who had already been ravaged by cancer treatment. Their immune systems were spent, and cancer was festering inside them. That’s like saying your brakes don’t work because you can’t go from 60 miles per hour to 0 over a span of 5 feet. It just doesn’t work that way.

If you’ve ever took a dog for a walk, you’ve noticed he eats grass. It’s instinctive. The grass has vitamin B17, and your dog won’t get cancer. But dogs do get cancer, when you lock them up in an apartment all the time and feed them dog food. That’s because they’re being deprived of a weapon against cancer. Animals in the zoo get cancer too, while animals in the wild don’t, all because of this.

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Romanesque and Gothic Styles in Ecclesiastical Architecture: A Visual Comparison

Romanesque and Gothic Styles in Ecclesiastical Architecture: A Visual Comparison.
A presentation by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (700 KB).

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^ The flying buttress, attached to the wall with a half-arch, supports the ceiling of a Gothic church, for the first time allowing large stained-glass windows to decorate the structures, in contrast with the thick walls required in their Romanesque counterparts. Instead of being dark and gloomy, Gothic churches could be warmly lit by bright sunshine.

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^ With the sun behind them, stained-glass windows are quite impressive. They illustrated biblical passages to the illiterate populace and provided light, such as in the Canterbury Cathedral’s windows, pictured above. The great height, helped by the pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses, is intended to make the church seem closer to God.

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^ The rounded arches of Winchester Cathedral (first) are a staple of the Romanesque era. It is not until the Gothic era that the advantaged pointed arches (second) become widespread. Being more true to the forces of compression, they are stronger and can be build higher, as an increase in height does not require so much distance between the endpoints.

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^ A Romanesque cathedral started in 1067, Saint-Etienne exhibits the rounded arches, grandiose presence, and dedication to geometric symmetry that is common among the churches of its time.

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^ The Seville Cathedral, the largest of the Gothic era, with its lone tower, features less symmetry. The rounded arches on the tower and dome vault show that elements of the Romanesque period persist.

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^ On top, we see the classic barrel vaulting of a Romanesque ceiling,
with the more modern ribbed vaulting of the Gothic period below.
The difference is similar to that of rounded arches and pointed arches:
barrel vaults must be large and have thick walls on their sides so as not to
collapse, whereas ribbed vaulting distributes the weight on the pillars more evenly.

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^ A diagram of ribbed valuting.

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^ With its construction beginning in 1136, the Saint-Denis Basilica, pictured above, is the first of the Gothic cathedrals. Pointed arches and ribbed vaulting, once again, set it apart from its Romanesque contemporaries.

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^ Many churches, such as Binsted’s Church of the Holy Cross above, combine elements from both eras, such as with the mixture of pointed and rounded arches. It is not always clear whether a church should be considered “Gothic” or “Romanesque.”

Oleanna Role-Playing

Oleanna Role-Playing.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (70 KB).

This is a hypothetical letter, written for John from Oleanna by Richard X. Thripp, a professor in an adjacent office who eavesdropped on the play. This may serve well for character analysis, or to inspire you to write some mandatory essay. I don’t know what edition I got the line numbers from, unfortunately.

To my esteemed colleagues in the tenurial committee,

In the eleven years I have known Professor John, he has been a truly compassionate teacher. Though cynical with his claims of college being no more than a “virtual warehousing of the young” (1375), I and many others have respected his views as healthy skepticism to the educational system. Being that our offices are adjacent, I overheard him counsel his student, Carol, on educational theory: “I’m talking to you as I’d talk to my son . . . I don’t know how to do it, other than to be personal” (1377). This seems reasonable, but the way he goes on to “teach” her the class is not right; he tells her “your grade for the whole term is an A,” but only “if you will come back and meet with me,” and to “forget about the paper” that all his other students must write (1380). He says “we’ll break [the rules]” and that “we won’t tell anybody” because “I like you” (1380). Even if he does have her best interests at heart, he should not play favorites or support such deviance, and he is doing a disservice to the students that legitimately pass the course, while setting a bad example for Carol.

I became concerned on Carol’s second visit, when she shouted “LET ME GO. LET ME GO. WOULD SOMEBODY HELP ME?” (1390). I tried to chase John down to question him, but he was too busy on his phone, talking of some important meeting. While this may seem illogical, my fears of his misconduct were diminished when on Carol’s third visit to John’s office, she announced to him: “you tried to rape me . . . you ‘pressed’ your body into me” (1397). What I can only see in both cases are vengeful taunts on her part. If he indeed attempted rape, she would have been too fearful to return to his office. Provoking him with such an accusation while in his office, alone with him, is ridiculous. Her very actions disqualify her claims. What was mere detainment in the hope of completing a discussion, she claims to be “battery . . . and attempted rape” (1397). John was not right to restrain Carol. But to claim it an assault is worse. It is not merely slander against John, but an injustice to all the women who must go through the emotional trauma of a real sexual assault. Carol is bringing them down with her hyped accusations.

We have high standards for our students; we have even higher standards for our faculty. John is at fault for over-stepping his bounds as a professor and acting in ways that can be construed as sexual advances. “The rich copulate less often than the poor” (1382) is no comment to make to a young student in a clustered office. Carol is guilty for accusing John of rape, which is nowhere as far as he went; the case will be thrown out by any fair-minded jury, merely for the reason that she has shown no fear of the man whom she claims assaulted her.

My recommendation is to deny John’s tenure and ask him to write a letter of apology for his behavior—namely, for ignoring his “responsibility to the young” (1394) by flirting with and making distasteful remarks to his student, and offering to give a high grade on a basis other than academic merit. We cannot promise a lifetime position to someone who is contrary to the ideals of higher education. Should he recognize his mistake, I am in favor of tenurial re-evaluation after a probationary period of one year.

There is another important subject I must address: Carol complains of the unbalanced power in the college, saying, “the thing which you find so cruel is the selfsame process of selection I, and my group, go through every day of our lives. In admittance to school. In our tests, in our class rankings” (1394). Though it may be unfortunate, that is life. As an institution of learning, we can only measure what we can test you on. Now, where this goes too far is when instructors help or hurt students on their own biases, such as her example of “one capricious or inventive answer on our parts, which, perhaps, you don’t find amusing” (1394) being the reason to be given a bad grade. That, none of us condone, and it is the very reason we have academic mediation and conflict resolution departments, anonymous reporting of instructors’ misconduct, and even procedures as basic as our mid-term instructor evaluations, where the students give direct and risk-free feedback, even if for something as small as unenthusiastic teaching or unfocused course material. While John writes that education is “prolonged and systematic hazing” (1383), we must remember that as a young man, he went through the same hazing himself, as did our other faculty, many slaving years to obtain a doctorate or Master’s degree. Would we tell a mother that it is unfair that she orders her children to time-outs, but does not subject herself to them? It is just as unreasonable to say that our professors should be subject to a the same grading process as our students—they have already proven themselves through decades of learning and experience. All our students attend here by choice, and if they can only see our system as unfair and dispossessing, they are free to go without a college education or attend elsewhere, though they will find that we are as fair as any other institution.

Sincerely,
Richard X. Thripp
Associate Professor of Information Studies

A Feminist Perspective for “Ind Aff” and Oleanna

A Feminist Perspective for “Ind Aff” and Oleanna.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (70 KB).

Though I have page and line numbers, I don’t know the editions I got them from. Sorry for that. I’ve developed an interesting angle on “Ind Aff” and Oleanna nonetheless.

The protagonists in “Ind Aff” and Oleanna struggle against men with power who wish to control them, in both pieces the archetype being the mid-forties college professor who offers academic favoritism. After the narratator of “Ind Aff” leaves her teacher, he “[does] his best to have [her] thesis refused” out of spite (Weldon 158), and in the same way, John of Oleanna offers an A grade “if you come back and meet with me,” saying “I like you” and that “we won’t tell anybody” (Manet 1380). Both abuse their power to manipulate women, and seeing that these are contemporary writings (1988 and 1992), they address the remaining, insidious counter to women’s rights, which is bias and coercion by people in positions of authority.

Both Carol and the unnamed narrator of “Ind Aff” connect themselves to a larger social movement; for Carol, it is for the rights of women and students, and for Peter’s companion, it is the ills of patriotism as applied to their romantic relationship, “inordinate affection” being the very title. The latter compares herself to Gavrilo Princip, assassin of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, an event that may be linked to the start of World War I. She concludes that her relationship with her professor was “as silly and sad as Princip . . . with his feverish mind . . . and his inordinate affection for his country . . . firing — one, two three shots,” as though he would have “come to his senses,” like she did about her love for her professor, if he would have reflected longer (Weldon 158). This is a mental coming-of-age on her part, just as Carol sees that John “[loves] the power” (Manet 1388) and “[believes] in nothing at all” (1393), undermining her fellow students, whom she states “overcame prejudices . . . and endured humiliations I pray that you and those you love will never encounter. (Pause) To gain admittance here” (1394). For this all to be so that John can “play the Patriarch in [his] class. To grant this. To deny that” (1388) is unbearable to her.

The two pieces are uplifting, in that the women have an awakening in which they reject the power of their professors, but at the same time are depressing for the loss that goes with growth. The lady in Sarajevo decides that “in a world . . . full of young men, unslaughtered,” she should not be with “this man with thinning hair,” particularly after noticing that she “had become used to his complaining” and continued to say “I love you” as a reflex rather than her feelings (Weldon 155, 157). In ending the relationship, she loses his good graces in “supervising [her] thesis” for classical history (153). More importantly, just earlier she “adored him” and “loved to be seen with him” (155), so what she loses more is the ideal of a “professor-student romance” (154) to guide and direct her.

Carol visits John’s office with the ideal of being taught something important which she does not know, but is shocked to find that her professor takes no stake in the subject, saying that “it’s just a course, it’s just a book” (Manet 1375), as if he views higher education as mere busywork. He goes on to say that “the tests, you see, which you encounter, in school, in college, in life, were designed, in the most part, for idiots. By idiots,” that they are “nonsense” (1379). When she challenges him later, he brushes it off by saying “I understand. You’re hurt. You’re angry. Yes. I think your anger is betraying you” (1388). Here, he is assuming her complaints have no rational bias, but just stem from blinding emotions and a taste for vengeance. This condescending attitude represents a systemic treatment of women as inferior to men, as though they lack logic and are driven only by instinct. John confirms his chauvinistic leanings: when Carol directly addresses it by asking, “You think I am a frightened, repressed, confused, I don’t know, abandoned young thing of some doubtful sexuality, who wants, power and revenge. (Pause) Don’t you?,” he answers, “Yes, I do” (1394). This same mindset has justified centuries of subjugation by men, in voting, marriage, government, property rights, and the workforce, and the women’s movement is what Carol acts on when she announces, “I speak, yes, not for myself. But for the group; for those who suffer what I suffer” (1393). She comes in thinking that John’s lessons have merit and the problem is “I’m stupid. And I’ll never learn” (1375), but learns that he “[says] that higher education is a joke” and “[treats] it as such” (1388), which unfortunately disillusions her belief in the academic system (1375).

Both Peter and John are patronizing toward women; Peter says that his student has “a good mind but not a first-class mind” (Weldon 153), and John responds to Carol’s questions as though he is consoling a crying child: “Sshhhhh . . . let it go. (Pause) Just let it go. (Pause) Just let it go. It’s all right” (Mamet 1383). In the same vein of disrespect, John uses gender biased language, calling the tenure committee “Good Men and True” despite it being men and women (1388), and philosophizing, “but if he does not learn . . . then why is he in college?” (1383) when referring to the generic student.

Despite John and Peter being older and having more life experience, in the end they both degenerate into emotional responses and immaturity, while their students become more wise and strong. Peter’s student realizes the superficiality in her infatuation, but conversely recalls that her teacher “was spiteful, as it happened, and did his best to have my thesis refused,” yet she appeals and wins (Weldon 158). This appears to be his desperate attempt to regain the father-like authority he had as the object of her affection and supervisor of her thesis. And while Carol realizes that John is “vile” and “exploitative” (Manet 1388), going on to champion the women and students that he oppresses (1393), he resorts to holding her down to keep her from leaving (1390). When she corrects his language and challenges him on the behavior, the best he can do is to beat her, call her a “vicious little bitch,” and prepare to smash a chair over her head (1398). Score one for the women.

Role-Playing as Creon

Role-Playing as Creon.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (70 KB).

Creon is the king from Antigone who orders the death of his niece, Antigone, for burying a traitor to the state. This is an imaginary question/answer from him, which he answers with an objective mind, after his death and having seen the present time.

Creon is asked, “does the individual really make a difference?”

This question should be rephrased as “is it realistically possible for the individual to make a meaningful difference”? Next, we need to define “meaningful difference.” It is all too easy to impact society negatively—through thievery, waste, or such as in my decision over Antigone’s fate, but the real challenge is to improve the world and those around you, and this is what we think of as “making a difference.” Doubtlessly, this is easier with those you are in close contact with—friends, family, and the citizens of your local community, as those are the ones who you have the most influence on. Making an impact across a continental nation such as the United States, in issues such as the recycling of paper and plastic products, or in helping the millions that are poor or homeless, is a harder task. Still, one finds solace in the fact that he or she is one of many who are helping to solve such issues, one link in the chain, so to speak. Even the largest task is started with a single action, a lowly ant is part of a thriving colony, a single soldier is essential to the great Theban army, one juror is the core of an entire democratic legal system.

In a position of power, such as myself as the king of Thebes, starting societal changes is far more possible. It takes a wise person to do good, however, and I look back with regret for denouncing Teiresias, and the domino effect that my mistaken decision to execute Antigone caused; I ended up following in the footsteps of Oedipus before me, a king blinded by stubbornness. Just as it is easier to lose a patient than to save him or her, it is simpler to do bad rather than good. It is cowardly to never back down; far braver is it to be the objective analyst who can acknowledge missteps. Those with the strength to do the latter are the ones who make a difference and improve the world, be it in their private affairs, or by helping to turn the tide in polluting corporations, unjust governments, or corrupted churches. Common sense and experience must prevail over authority and principle, for no book of laws can replace human reasoning. I recall lecturing Haemon, “Whoever the city shall appoint to rule, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great things, in just things and unjust” (541-543). What a pity it would be if Americans had subscribed to this, as then they would still be paying a premium for tea and sugar as a part of the British Empire! Yes, an individual really can make a difference, but be it by quitting smoking or by helping to reverse global warming, it takes a willingness to recognize faults, a commitment to improving, and the persistence to convince others to do the same.

Work Cited

Sophocles. Antigone. [c. 440 B.C.E.]. As published in The Humanistic Tradition, Vol. 1, Fifth Edition on pages 85-94 by Gloria K. Fiero. London: Laurence King Publishing, Ltd., 2006.

Creon vs. Gilgamesh: Comparing and Contrasting Authority in The Epic of Gilgamesh and Antigone

Creon vs. Gilgamesh: Comparing and Contrasting Authority in The Epic of Gilgamesh and Antigone.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (80 KB).

Two Kings Are Humbled

In our two stories, The Epic of Gilgamesh and Antigone, the people are ruled by imposing monarchs: Gilgamesh and Creon, respectively, who each use their power in differing ways. While Gilgamesh has “arrogance [having] no bounds by day or night,” (62), Creon, king of Thebes and protagonist in Antigone, admits that his worthiness in leadership will only be proven in action (140-42). Creon wants to be an ideal ruler, stating that as “supreme guardian of the State” he will always put the common welfare above friendship, and consider those who do not help the country prosper to be enemies. Gilgamesh, who “sounds the tocsin [alarm bell] for his amusement” and takes virgins from their lovers (62, 68), is uncaring and reckless in comparison.

Where Creon strives to be just, Gilgamesh is a man of action; he has built great walls to protect Uruk (61), and goes on a grand adventure, risking his life to gain prestige in the battle against Humbaba (70-84), who guards the cedar trees his people need. Creon seems attentive to detail: “Whoever the city shall appoint to rule, that man must be obeyed, in little things and great things, in just things and unjust” (541-43), but does not think that his whole argument may be wrong.

Antigone, Creon’s niece, puts the divine law requiring burial of her traitorous brother, Polynices, above the edict that none shall bury him. Despite Haemon, son of Creon, and the trusted advisor, Teiresias, imploring him not to, Creon goes ahead with the order to execute Antigone for her crime, with the steadfast rationalization that “disobedience is the worst of evils” (548) and “we must not let a woman defy us” (553).

We see much stubbornness in Gilgamesh too. Enkidu, trusted comrade to Gilgamesh, laments, “it is not an equal struggle when one fights with Humbaba,” and “What man would willingly walk into that country and explore its depths?,” (71) yet our hero persists and eventually succeeds in defeating Humbaba with Enkidu by his side. In his quest for immortality, he is chided by Sidura, “you will never find that life for which you are looking,” (102), and Utnapishtim advises, “there is no permanence” (106), yet he remains relentless in his fear, inspired by Enkidu’s death. Failure greets him, but he learns too: “You were given the kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny,” Enlil decrees (118), showing us that immortality would give Gilgamesh more power, but not happiness.

Clearly, both kings are unwavering, and that can be a great trait or a folly. In the case of Gilgamesh, he is triumphant in his arguably foolhardy struggle against Humbaba, and while failing to gain eternal life, learns a valuable lesson: do not be haughty and unjust, but rather a shepherd to your people, smart, wise, and fair in your dealings with your servants and subjects (62, 118). Creon stays true to his decision too, but it instead results in disaster and tragedy. When protested by his friends and family, he resorts to personal attacks, accusing Teiresias of providing “shameful counsels in fair words to earn a bribe” (707-08), and Haemon of being the “slave of a woman” for supporting Antigone (628), despite his argument being on her cause’s merits alone, and not even mentioning their engagement to be wed. It is only when Teiresias proclaims that the gods will strike him down for his actions (730-52) that Creon turns around, but it is too late as Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice, Creon’s wife, have all committed suicide over the dreadful matter. Creon is distraught. Depressingly, there is no mercy sang by the chorus: “Too late, too late your eyes are opened!” (872) and “. . . proud men who speak great works come in the end to despair” (927-29) is all we hear. This means he got what he deserved, as immersed in his pride he was blind to the truth. The stories, combined, show us that wisdom is knowing the difference between rightful persistence and foolish obstinacy.

Gilgamesh’s story covers many years; the events in Antigone occur within a single day. On one hand there is a sweeping epic, while on the other, a small, localized, and even trivial series of happenings. But where Gilgamesh awes, Antigone teaches. Surely we learn from Creon’s judgment, as in holding strong to save face in one venue he angers the gods, loses the respect of his people, and must cope with the death of his family resulting from his actions.

Authority shows itself as an overpowering force—a king can make or break a nation. The subjects of the monarch have learned to tolerate injustice, for in Gilgamesh they appeal to the gods, “No son is left with his father, for Gilgamesh takes them all; and is this the king, the shepherd of his people?” (62). In Antigone, Haemon reveals the true feelings of the people: “None was ever doomed to a shameful death for deeds so noble as hers” (567-68), but no one dares announce this in public for fear of being punished as a traitor.

Whereas the tale of Creon and Antigone ends tragically, Gilgamesh is not so gloomy. Yes, we do see the death of our heroes, Enkidu and Gilgamesh, but we are taught that death is not something to be afraid of but rather a natural function that teaches us to value the time we have and to live with respect for others. “When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things, . . . dance and be merry, feast and rejoice,” Sidura advises (102).

Creon poses a particularly deep dilemma in the latter part of Antigone: “Tell me—am I to rule by my own judgment or the views of others?” (602-03). This sums up the rationalization of a lot of faulty kingship in both stories, as it is the ruler who is the moderator; to balance the views of the people, individual citizens, and his or her own ideas is principle to leadership, not to make decisions without counsel nor purely by democracy. Gilgamesh is guilty of this; a selfish ruler, he takes what he wants (62) and begins work for both men and women at the roll of a drum (68).

A once masterful king, “wise, [seeing] mysteries, and [knowing] secret things” (61), Gilgamesh, following the death of Enkidu, becomes haunted by his own mortality. “Because of my brother I am afraid of death, because of my brother I stray through the wilderness and cannot rest,” he pleads his case to Urshanabi (103). Similarly Creon is a confident and resolute king, but in the face of such hardship yields to being a follower; we read him asking of his subjects: “What shall I do then? Speak, and I will obey” (761). In both of our tales the great become humbled—there is a ruler who is taught a lesson. This was an appealing theme over 2000 years ago, and still is now, as we think of authority, such as police officers, presidents, and even the old-fashioned kings, to be unfaltering. It is nice to see that they have flaws and pay heavy consequences for them, as when much is given, much is expected.

Works Cited

Gilgamesh. Epic of Gilgamesh, The. [c. 2500 B.C.E.]. Penguin Classics edition with introduction by N. K. Sandars. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1972.
Sophocles. Antigone. [c. 440 B.C.E.]. As published in The Humanistic Tradition, Vol. 1, Fifth Edition on pages 85-94 by Gloria K. Fiero. London: Laurence King Publishing, Ltd., 2006.

Practical Applications of Seven Life Lessons of Chaos

Practical Applications of Seven Life Lessons of Chaos.
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (190 KB).

Herein lies chapter-by-chapter applications of the concepts in Seven Life Lessons of Chaos, a crazy but eye-opening book by John Briggs and F. David Peat. I wrote this for the QUANTA learning community (daytonastate.edu/quanta) in April 2008, and have been using the lessons to be out-of-the-ordinary ever since.

Chapter One
To be creative, you should embrace the random, the “slip with the chisel on marble” (24), the chaos of the vortex which channels your energy. Creativity is not “a special ‘talent’ reserved for a few” (11), but rather a mindset. Forfeiting the “constricted grip of our egos,” our “fear of mistakes,” and our love of staying in “comfort zones” (29), we can approach something as mundane as baking a loaf of bread as “always new” (30). This “sense of newness” (30) lets us reach a higher level, rewarding as with “moments of flow and exhilaration” (27) by our passionate efforts in whatever craft we pursue.

Briggs and Peat relate the chaos-approach for creativity to the way of self-understanding in many religions: you go into the wilderness, be it a real forest or symbolic meditation. This de-clutters your mind; “by letting go of consensual structures, a creative self-reorganization [becomes] possible” (22). The new organization is based on “nature’s creativity” (19), which is like the random yet enticing patterns seen in clouds or galaxies. The authors support this with J. Krishnamurti’s words, among others: “truth is not a fixed point,” not even a concept; it “holds us all together,” yet we must each find a unique version of it (21). Paul Cézanne’s art represents the new truth, which revels in “creative doubt” (22). Each stroke changes “the entire scene,” questioning what he painted just previously (22). Chaos theory is a paradigm shift from objective reality to subjective reality, where we recognize that each person has a unique view of the world (truths), that natural processes are infinitely complex, connected, and indivisible, and that a Zen-like flow (clarity of mind) connects us with ourselves, not intellectual introspection.

Welcome to the Future Modern Architecture

I can apply the principles of the vortex to photography as an art form. At times, I have “obsessions with control and power,” spending hours assembling a scene like the photo on the left, my “fear of mistakes” (29) pushing me to put everything in its place under the guise of creating something. At other times, I walk around with my camera, taking pictures of everyday objects at different angles or under odd lighting, and the results, while not “creative” in the sense of building something new, are my most engaging works. I might spend thirty seconds composing the scene, but I am in the flow, which is “intense clarity about the moment,” and, most importantly to me, with “no concern for failure” (27). This is what I did with the photo on the right, which is a of an everyday building in the Daytona Beach College campus, but with a sense of clarity from the clear sky and nonstandard composition, and there I am using chaos theory. I should now do more of the right and less of the left.

Chapter Two
The lesson is that small efforts can have rippling effects across vast oceans. While the conventional wisdom tells us that the world is composed of “linear systems,” where “small influences” produce small results (33), it is often the case that the results are exponential rather than linear. This is the difference between 10*10 (one hundred) and 10^10 (ten billion). In this way, a thing is amplified, as in the metaphor of “the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil” causing “a tornado in Texas” (33). We can deeply better society through positive acts such as chatting the weather or smiling at strangers, because we are improving the social climate which we are all a part of using “subtle influence” (41)—our cordiality produces a feedback loop in others, for which they become more upbeat, positively influencing the people they encounter, and so on.

The authors explicate their concept with the meteorological experiments of Edward Lorenz. He made long-term weather calculations, but took a shortcut while double-checking the results: he rounded to three decimal places instead of six (32). The results were far different; while he anticipated a .1 percent error margin, all the steps in the calculations were dependent on the data computed previously, so the rounding error increased by orders of magnitude through the process. This is the way the actual weather works; small influences are magnified through “iterating feedback,” so an increased temperature or air pressure cycle may be the root of a hurricane. Nature works this way too; by killing off cockroaches, lizards may die, which may deprive snakes of food, which may eventually lead to the destruction of an ecosystem. Briggs and Peat teach us that we can use the butterfly effect to exercise power in our everyday lives, where we may seem powerless. Rosa Parks, who would not be forced to the back of a bus for a white man, created butterfly power, in which thousands of others boycotted the buses, leading to the eventual fall of segregation (28-29). This is chaos theory in action.

The principle I work by in library service is “do good always,” meaning that I look out for the best interests of our patrons, putting in effort to get them the information that seems most relevant and reliable, ranging from questions like “where’s the bathroom” to “how can I build a bathroom?” (I had that question last week, and was thankful to find that The Kitchen & Baths 1-2-3 was in the right place on our shelves.) I have gone to libraries where the librarian is rude or dismissive of inquiries, where I could get no help searching the computer databases, and where asking the librarian to look up the book for me seemed like an imposition. My grandmother, in searching for a book on health remedies, recently told me that she was told it was “not their job” to “train” patrons to use the neo-card catalog (computer terminal). I do not demean patrons for bringing in lists of popular movies they want to put on reserve, or for asking how to use a mouse or set up an email account on our public computers, and it is my hope that through the butterfly effect I am positively influencing the entire community.

Chapter Three
“Going with the Flow” shows us that groups formed from chaotic self-organization are “highly adaptable and resilient” (59); often moreso than their structured counterparts. John Holland argues that most of our laws, such as for “traffic, health and safety, [and] consumer protection” were not “planned in advance,” but came about in response to feedback loops, contributing to their hardiness (59). This shows that good systems evolve from the bottom up. Trying to control the “natural chaos of society” is ineffective, such as the Chinese communists’ attempted command economy, which caused “catastrophic shortages and famines” (60).

Organizations, including governments, corporations, and even our beloved Daytona Beach College, tend to become “increasingly mechanical and impoverished” (69), in that as they increase in size, policies evolve to treat people impersonally, like cogs in a machine, for the purpose of efficiency and formality. Unforgiving, check-box style employee evaluations make it so that “people are not allowed to . . . make mistakes without paying heavily” (70). While such companies champion creativity in name, their hierarchal structure is made for “preventing those creative qualities from ever self-organizing within corporate walls” (70), enigmatically.

Despite rigid structure, all organizations have “subtle influences and chaotic feedback”; they must have “strange attractors” to keep people, and are quite often “open, nonlinear systems” (71-72). When we stop working toward an “ideal” of a inflexible, mechanical bureaucracy, instead embracing fluidity, innovation, and other more human traits, we can harness our creativity as a whole.

I can apply the lesson to group interactions, such as in QUANTA’s activities and projects. David Bohm says that dialogue is deeper than discussion, where “we suspend our opinions and judgments in order to be able to listen to each other” (74). Too often I stick to my own ideas and reasoning while ignoring the input of others, so “suspend[ing] and transform[ing]” such “nonnegotiable convictions” (74-75) can make me a diplomatic mediator and a more reasonable person. I would also like to stop seeing “individuals [as] essentially separate particles” (78), but rather as connected cells in a larger body. If instead of assuming I must “break the ice” with strangers, I assume there is no ice at all, I can build better connections while harnessing chaos’ underlying links.

Chapter Four
Life often appears polarized as either extremely simple or unfathomably complex. Mathematical fractals, which appear infinite and random, are actually simple and repetitive (81). Chaos “bursts, uninvited, into our lives” (86), but can be a cleansing process rather than a feared intruder. Pythagoras is a good example; before him, the only known numbers were integers and ratios of integers, but he made things complex by discovering that a right triangle with a base and height of one has a hypotenuse of the square root of two, an irrational number (87). Such numbers are “bursts of infinite complexity, of total randomness inside an otherwise regular system” (88), because they continue randomly and indefinitely, carving their own space on the number line. The discovery was “scandalous,” at first, “suppresed by the Pythagorean brotherhood” (88), but eventually came to be recognized as a great step forward in our understanding of mathematics. In this way, chaos produces “renewal [and] transformation” (86).

Complexity is inherent in “the way things interact with each other,” but not so much the things themselves (89). This is a shift away from hard science such as molecular biology, which “abstracts and simplifies nature” (90), but we must recognize it to avoid fragmentation. Lewis Thomas argues that if we tried just to understand everything about a protozoan, we would find that we could never know everything about it, because that “would require understanding its connection to the entire history of evolution and the . . . environment” (91). This is complexity theory’s thesis—we cannot continue breaking the world into chunks.

What I see from this chapter is that the world is not black and white, but rather shades of gray, just as nothing is truly simple nor complex. Briggs and Peat write that we try to simplify during a war, seeing the enemy as a mere “evil brute,” while our side is infinitely virtuous (93). The enemy follows suit, but the “real truth” (if we may call it that) is somewhere in between. I am guilty of being overly analytical, which may lead me to a fragmented view of the world. Where I can learn to see nuances and subtleties is in my studies on the piano; I should accept some mistakes, off-tempo playing, and my own improvisations as my creative additions to the classical pieces I play. I will write more letters by hand; I get too caught up in my “digital strategy” (90) for the world that I ignore the feeling that is lost in typed text. “What’s between” is often more interesting than what is at the edges.

Chapter Five
Till the Middle Ages, art was seen as rational, in that it meant “seeing the spiritual connections in things, the rhythms and delicate balance or ‘ratio’ among subjects and objects” (120). Since the industrial age, rationality is viewed in a mechanical way, it being “the capacity to be logical, analytical, coldly objective, and detached” (120). Our “enlightened” view denies the “nuances and resonances” that exist in our world; organic patterns such as snowflakes, river streams, or even the “self organized chaos” found in “towns and villages” are conveniently ignored (123). Unlike widgets from a factory, each person, tree, or cloud formation is “self similar” (103), in that there are others like it, yet it is unique for having variable subtleties. When we accept this, we can appreciate the art that abounds in nature’s creativity.

The authors show us fractals in flames, ice, rocks, and clouds (101-107). Even our brains are fractal folds of neuronal tissues, each different from the rest (107). Like with Dionysus, rationality is creativity (121). One idea that comes from the mechanistic view is that we can “spray 50,000 tons of propane or ethane into the South polar sky” to heal the ozone layer (122-123), but if we step back to see that nature is complex and intertwined, we will know that “piling one technology upon the problems created by other technologies will only perpetuate the mind-set that is destroying our natural world” (123). The fading ozone layer cannot be fixed by kludges, but rather by going to the source of the problem (our pollution).

I can use this lesson in my photography. I have always looked at everyday scenes as being artistic, but have shot less still life and scenery at the coaxing of my photography professor. After the end of the semester, I will be getting back to my roots of “seeing the art of the world,” such as in the fractal patterns of roses, sunlight, cloud formations, and other elements of nature. My best creations come when I am not rigidly analyzing the frame, but instead composing for whatever looks good to my eye, and by doing more of this will be harnessing chaos theory.

Chapter Six
We think of time as constant and unchanging, a force that is “mechanical, impersonal, external, and disconnected” from ourselves (125). Our real perception of time, however, may be “composed of clusters of tiny discontinuities” (126), such as how “events happen in slow motion” when we are about to crash a car (127). The authors argue that this may not be the mere rush of adrenaline hormones, but really a “clear vision of just how things really are in the dimensions of time”; we abandon the clock and take on “fractal time,” with it’s “temporal nuance” (127). By using time “as a shopping basket,” we “lose the flavor of life” (139). Sadly, the modern corporation tells us “you’re supposed to be working all the time you’re here” (141), which leaves no time for reflection and creativity which would otherwise boost our productivity and spirit.

An example of elastic time is the psychiatric discovery that “a dream unfolds in the brain in only seconds,” though it may seem to encompass hours (232). “Our brains never remember an event in exactly the same way twice,” because each recollection “connects to the whole structure of our consciousness” (232), including our own awareness of time. The Polynesian islanders recognize this, with their afternoon fiestas being an “hour” that is “more than 100 of our minutes.” But when they are working fiercely in the morning, an hour may be “only a few tens of our minutes” (136), which demonstrates a truer definition of time—one connected to how much work we do and our internal rhythms.

While I live in a world of QUANTA assignments based on mechanical time, I can still disconnect in hobbies like photography, music, and shelving books at the library. I made a step toward fractal time in mid-2007, when I vowed never to wear a watch again. It served to keep me obsessed with the clock, even in lieu of pressing appointments, and so dropping it lets me focus on “the rich time of nature” (137). If I need to know the time, there are plenty of clocks on the walls.

Chapter Seven
With our long-standing “mechanical perspective,” we see ourselves as “no more than a collection of externally related parts” (162). This is like learning to drive a car from an owner’s manual and technical diagrams. We, just like the Earth, are more complex than the sum of our parts. Traditional Cartesian science avoids subtleties and intuition, but that is in fact where the most truth lies. To find unity, Briggs and Peat say that we should develop “an ability to reason aesthetically,” switching from “obsessive focus on control” to recognition of “emergence and change,” so that we may become participants rather than masters of our world (165).

The authors use the Native Americans as an example of inter-connectedness, with the story of a young man who would “travel across the United States and Canada attending powwows.” Despite not having money, “there was always someone to give him a lift to the next reserve”; he “trusted the system” of “all my relations” to support him (163). As a middle-aged worker, he does the same for other youths, keeping the tradition alive. In our psyches, there is a “sense of solidarity with the entire human race,” yet since the Renaissance, the prevailing ideology pins us as “isolated individuals” (162-163). The very definition of “consciousness” has changed from “what we are knowing together” to what we know as fragments (149). To rejoin the whole, we must tear down these imaginary walls between us by embracing the community as an extension of ourselves.

I am going to be applying this over my remaining year at Daytona Beach College, as I will be involved with my peers in Phi Theta Kappa, and more open to connections with others through the group skills from QUANTA. I am living compassionately instead of competitively, which involves diverting focus from myself, and instead helping others and valuing our community.

Work Cited

Briggs and Peat. Seven Life Lessons of Chaos. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.

Richard X. Thripp in QUANTA

Richard X. Thripp in QUANTA.
Essays by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (100 KB).

Two introspective essays I wrote in December of 2007 and May of 2008, for completing the Fall and Spring semesters in the QUANTA learning community (daytonastate.edu/quanta) at Daytona Beach College. I can’t look at these and say they speak for me now, because they speak for the Richard X. Thripp of 2007-12 and 2008-05, from which I’m constantly changing. They’re a good representation of QUANTA and elaborate on some of my beliefs, though.

The Learning Community: Reflections on Sixteen Weeks in QUANTA [2007-12-10]

For the sixteen weeks of the fall 2007 semester, the QUANTA learning community at Daytona Beach College has been my second home. Meeting for three hours, three times a week, we tackle issues ranging from the smallest details of MLA formatting, to questions perpetual to the human condition, such as in my group’s most recent presentation, “does the individual really make a difference?” (we say yes, but to a fault). Being a large class, we are broken up into nine groups at the start of the semester, in which each of us is forced to either work together with our colleagues, or perish. It is this collectivism that makes QUANTA special—in no other class would we get to do exams on our own and then as a group, and it is in the latter that concepts in my mind are solidified, for it is David, Heather, Katie, and Lillie’s succinct explanations of sociological terms such as alienation and assimilation that are most memorable. We are also quite good friends now, unlike in normal courses which you can be in for months without knowing anyone. It is collaboration and the community spirit that defines QUANTA, and combined with unique assignments such as our scavenger hunt around the campus, field trip to DeLeon Springs, and playing amateur psychologist to analyze our classmates sleeping dreams, I learn more effectively and am always looking forward to our next class. Before QUANTA I preferred to not work with others, but I have found that by combining my knowledge with that of the other members of my group, we leave no topic ignored, no question unanswered, and no challenge undefeated. At the book seminars, we all pitch in with our analysis of the stories, in our planning for the Celebration of the Creative Spirit presentation, we all worked on the script and brought props and beverages, and in our group exams for sociology and humanities, we reached consensus on the questions and exceeded our individual aptitude.

In the essays and informal writing assignments alike, there is no mercy for the faint of heart. Regurgitated summaries of works such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and The Canterbury Tales will not suffice: what is expected is thorough and thoughtful analysis of the intentions of the authors and characters, substantiated with quotes and examples. When I first flipped through my copy of the QUANTA handbook, I thought the workload was moderate, but it is actually far higher, as Blanton, Gunshanan, and Flota value quality writing over quantity of output. We are encouraged to read critically, by first responding, then understanding and evaluating. This is no small task: for Antigone, for example, I produced enough notes and highlighting to fill four pages, before even finishing the reading process, and soon enough I was re-reading the work twice to understand and holistically evaluate the message and characters. All this is needed to write a polished and persuasive essay, and through my professors’ challenging assignments my writing and comprehension have markedly improved, preparing me for the years of college and professional world ahead.

I often found myself applying sociological concepts to my humanities studies—such as social stratification and anomie contributing to the Roman Empire’s demise. In a normal set of firewalled courses, I would not connect concepts together as such, but with the topics weaved together as in QUANTA, the lessons are interesting and clear. Michael Flota’s lectures are energetic and engaging. The topic of sociology has been enjoyable because I am looking at society and how others behave much more closely now, and it has given me the big picture of why crime, wars, hatred, and inequity persists. I also learned that we Americans are the most unequal country of all, with the one percent at the top claiming more of the wealth than our poorest forty percent; perhaps we are not such a fair society as we think? Such curiosity is encouraged in QUANTA.

Casey Blanton’s lessons in history and the humanities are interesting and informative; the histories of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism were most interesting to me, as the trio seems completely separate, but in fact each originated similarly and involves many of the same characters, such as Abraham, considered the father of the peoples of all three. I am looking forward to learning of the Renaissance and later periods in the next semester, and enjoyed our creative assignments this term, particularly the third exam, in which I made a small illuminated manuscript of a biblical scripture enumerating the virtues of love, and the humanities observation project, in which I saw and wrote about nearby Daytona Beach College Theater Center’s play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Frank Gunshanan is a thoroughly tough English teacher, but the most fair of all—he finds the time to read everything I write most carefully, producing no shortage of criticisms and praise in the margins. “Show—don’t tell” is the concept that helped me the most. I find myself framing my essays with quotes, facts, and examples out of habit, such as mentioning the 1960s civil rights movement as a tipping point against inequality, and quoting twelve sources in my research paper, which I use to argue that it is unethical to use implicit-association testing in employment screening. I liked that paper the most, as I got a chance to pick a topic that interests me, and then scour the library and Internet for scholarly articles and opinions to base my essay on.

I have been very happy to start my collegiate education in this course, as it has been a great introduction to the rigors of post-secondary education. Working in a classroom environment, after a decade of being taught at home by my father, I find that studying and communicating in groups is my most lacking skill, but fortunately, there is no better place than QUANTA to become a fledgling diplomat. The professors are the most dedicated around—I could easily tell that Casey knows how learning communities best work with her twenty years leading the group, and Frank and Michael are finally putting their brilliant knowledge of grammar and exchange mobility to use as part of the family. The fun is only half over; I am excited to continue the subjects in the spring semester, taking advantage of all the opportunities QUANTA offers.

A Lifetime of QUANTA [2008-05-05]

In the twenty-first century, what will be most important is the access to information—it should be organized, honed, and easily searched. This is especially evident in the CPP globalization group’s video, where we learned that the publication of books and web pages is growing at an exponential rate. This rate of growth, driven by consumer-generated content, is far ahead of our ability to digest such information; it must be culled to the core, most relevant bits. While search engines like Google may attempt to catalog everything we need to know, it will always be admist a sea of noise and clutter, and they miss much of the best and most thoroughly researched information, which will continue to be found in print. This is why public libraries, staffed by knowledgeable and resourceful scholars, serve an essential place in our communities. Their purpose is not only to offer a catalog of knowledge, but the help to find it, be it a popular video release that the patron only recalls fuzzy details of, or details on the habitat of the great white sharks. I once had a person come into my library wanting that, but he started out asking for a book on sea creatures. Disappointed by the lack of specificity in the books I offered him, and after some prodding on my part, we found a book on just great white sharks. It is this sort of social interaction, supporting the lifelong education of our people, that makes library service special to me. A computer database alone does not find information.

My journey involves a lengthy college education, where I am studying computer science for my Associate of Arts and Bachelor’s degrees, and library science for my Master’s. The combination is good—computerization is entrenched in our lives, work, and learning, so knowing the roots of it will be invaluable in my job. For three years now I have been developing my photography in parallel, as a hobby next to my chosen field. The response to my choice of librarianship has been negative, from my friends and even family. What I see is that they do not view library service as the respectable profession it has become, nor do they understand its importance.

Looking far into the future, I do not cringe at seeing myself married with children, but I am noticing a shift in social norms, so that people favor putting a family off till their thirties. Regardless, I refuse to schedule my life like I schedule my cat’s meals, and I am only looking for a woman who lives courageously, without dwelling in fear or doubt, without being entangled in a particular religious or personal orthodoxy so thoroughly as to obscure any skeptical inquiry, without contempt nor anger toward her oppressors, but only forgiveness and empathy—the very values I ascribe to. These are my goals for sharing my life with friends and family alike, and if I am following them, not to the truth of the page, but to the truth of the heart, I can do no wrong.

On the “good life.” Whatever I do, it has to be for the good of all, not just myself. I do this with my photography, by inspiring others with my captures of still life and nature, and promoting photography as an art form by my online journaling and print giveaways. In library service, I do this by helping others find information, teaching on computer use, and even small stuff like keeping the shelves in order. This will only expand as I go further into my career. I see our libraries and their ideals are in need of care and attention, but I do not commit myself to a specific field so that I see no value elsewhere. We learned the downfalls of such fragmented thinking in January’s Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy video; specialism narrows your focus and understanding, while branching out lets you see the panorama that is the world.

Admittedly, this essay is a series of sweeping conjectures. For my best life, there are practical concerns as well. I am glad to have the continued support of my Dad and Mom, so I can continue to leech off them until my wonderful career in library science starts paying the bills. I am going to avoid the trap of years of renting by opening a mortgage on a house then, because owning private property is just that important. I do not need to become excessively wealthy, but I want enough for health insurance and a year’s wages, and to live comfortable and afford some photography and computer-related gadgets. That sounds reasonable enough. My problem will be sticking to whatever I do, as I tend to lose focus and stagnate in reflection rather than action, such as in getting caught up reading articles about chaos theory on Wikipedia rather than writing the required essay. Then I put it off till the last minute, which is a shame. While my love of reading and learning is a strength, balancing it against avoidance and inaction will be an ongoing struggle. This is why I have to change my mindset and do what I love to stay focused, such as photography, librarianship, or studying in QUANTA. The mindset I need to adopt is “do things now,” which seems a good idea to work on. I see many of my classmates skipping assignments or turning them in late, but I aim to always put in the effort so that I can reap the rewards of a college education.

I have learned a lot in my two semesters of QUANTA, but while MLA formatting only takes days to be forgotten, working with others takes a lifetime. While before, I preferred working against others and shunning my peers in a life of hermitage, finally I see that there are many things I do not know nor care to know, and by working and sharing with others, we can all broaden our understanding. The class is also quite challenging. Frank Gunshanan only accepts top-of-the-line work; mere summaries and quotes will not due, unlike in some high school English classes. Casey Blanton’s tests and assignments require a thorough understanding of history and our reading selections; mere skimming will not due. Michael Flota dares us to think outside the box with his dialogs on the workings of society, currencies, and politicking; the mere “conventional wisdom” of conservatives and capitalist plutocrats does not make the cut. I would not have gone as far in these subjects on my own or in any other classes, so I know QUANTA has made me grow as a person.

I used to be inclined to see in black and white, such as in the wars of the United States (we are always on the side of justice, right?), history (Native Americans as savages), the homeless (are they not just lazy bums?) and even in choosing one post-it note from another (which one sticks better?). I was gradually unraveling this predilection, but the material in the interdisciplinary learning community solidified the process. I now see there are nuances and shades of gray in any dilemma; I think “both” and “and” rather than “either” or “or,” as we have been encouraged to do over two semesters. Nothing is perfectly simple, as we learned from Seven Life Lessons of Chaos. This realization will keep me open-minded and unprejudiced toward others throughout my life, help me to analyze rather than just read, and push me to understand viewpoints contrary to my own, rather than just denouncing them. Thanks to my wonderful professors and friends.

Proposal for “Implicit-Association Testing in Practice”

Proposal for “Implicit-Association Testing: Does it Have a Place at Your Next Job Interview?”
Essay by Richard X. Thripp.
2008-07-17 — http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/essays
PDF version (90 KB).

This was the proposal for my essay, “Implicit-Association Testing: Does it Have a Place at Your Next Job Interview?” (http://richardxthripp.thripp.com/iat-in-practice-163). It was required for school, and simply outlines what I planned to write, before I wrote it.

Implicit Association Tests: More than Informative?

In my essay, I will evaluate the accuracy of implicit-association tests designed to measure subconscious racial bias, and decide whether they deserve to be used for critical purposes such as employment screening and juror selection.

Implicit-association testing is an experimental method, with the purpose of revealing biases that are not shown in traditional questionnaires. An example is Project Implicit of Harvard University, the tests of which “has attracted an enormous amount of research interest and debate” (Klauer et al. 353). In one section of the website’s race IAT, the phrases “African American or good” and “European American or bad” appear on two sides of a computer screen. Pictures of black faces, white faces, and words such as “glorious” and “horrible” appear one-after-another, with the test-taker instructions being to match up the items to either side. In all instances, correct answers are not as important as “the difference in reaction times . . . [which] is taken as an indicator of the degree of association between concepts” (Steffens 166); a “moderate automatic preference for White people compared to Black people” is a common result.

Dr. Anthony Greenwald, one of the test’s creators, argues against common criticisms of the test, stating that “findings reveal that it is difficult to fake IAT performances” and speaking of “the numerous successful uses of the IAT to measure individual differences” in response to the concern of the test reporting cultural bias as personal bias. Created by researchers from Harvard University, The University of Virginia, and University of Washington, Project Implicit has been lauded in Slate Magazine, and The Galveston County Daily News, in which Howard Brody surmises, “It’s a lesson, I suggest, for all of us in America.”

Shankar Vedantam of washingtonpost.com writes, “some proponents [say] it would be unethical not to use the test to screen officials who make life-and-death decisions about others.” While calling it unethical is notably extreme, if I was a black man I surely would not want to be assumed guilty when accused of murder, or some other grave crime, due merely to my skin color. “Might employers use such tests to weed out potential racists?,” Vedantam asks. The test could be used so that people who may discriminate as such would not have the chance to do so, as those shown to be unbiased would be favored in positions of power, such as those of judges and jurors.

Jay Dixit, an author for Slate Magazine, raises a significant dilemma: “On the other hand, if a test shows an applicant is biased, but you have no evidence that he has actually discriminated against anyone, would it really be fair not to hire him?” Mahzarin Banaji, one of the test’s creators, too fears its mainstream usage, as it will be assumed “that people who have high implicit bias scores will always behave in a biased way—which is not the case, since the tests don’t predict behavior with 100 percent accuracy.” While the subject is no doubt ethically murky, I believe that in Dixit’s question, it is indeed wrong to withhold a job on the basis of mere discriminatory thoughts, as the person that “fails” an implicit-association test has not done anything wrong. Interestingly, Dixit notes, “just taking [the test] may sometimes be enough to convince people they are prejudiced and should try to change.” I think it would be a good idea to require prospective jurors, job applicants, and anyone in a company’s human resources department to take the test, and then write an essay about how they will not let their implicit thoughts translate into discriminatory treatment towards ethnic minorities, as long as this assignment is not a determining factor for their job. Racism can only be stopped through education, not fear, and this is the thesis of my final paper.

Works Cited

Brody, Howard. “The racial prejudice that besets medicine.” The Galveston County Daily News. 17 July 2008 <http://news.galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?tool=print&ewcd=32fe23e7316ad900>.
Dixit, Jay. “Screen Test: Why we should start measuring bias.” Slate Magazine. 17 July 2008
<http://www.slate.com/toolbar.aspx?action=print&id=2134921>.
Greenwald, Anthony. “Implicit Association Test: Validity Debates.” 17 July 2008
<http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/iat_validity.htm>.
Klauer, Karl Christoph, et al. “Process Components of the Implicit Association Test: A Diffusion-Model Analysis.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93.3 (2007): 353-68. Academic Search Premier. 17 July 2008 <http://search.ebscohost.com/>.
Steffans, Melanie. “Is the Implicit Association Test Immune to Faking?” Experimental Psychology 51.3 (2004): 165-79. Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena. 17 July 2008
<http://www.uni-jena.de/data/unijena_/faculties/fsv/institut_psychologie/psycho_nf/
Steffens_Is+the+IAT+immune+to+faking+.pdf
>.
Vedantam, Shankar. “See No Bias.” washingtonpost.com. 17 July 2008
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A27067-2005Jan21.html>.

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