Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: Reading

 

“A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.” – Mark Twain

I may have some advantages. I have been a reader since first grade, nearly 60 years. Over that period I have been an engineer, a quality-assurance manager, a navigator, a technical writer, and an author. Reading has been the key to all of those careers. My ability to absorb information through the printed word has allowed me to succeed in each of those fields.

When I start writing a new book, I typically start off by reading a dozen or so books on the topic. Often they contradict each other. The fun lies in resolving those contradictions and piecing the facts into a greater picture. Often I discover the stuff that “everybody knows” is wrong by doing so.

Fortunately, I am a fast reader. Someone asked how much I read. I suspect I average five books a week. Since first grade. (The librarian at Burns Park elementary refused to believe I was going through the half-dozen books I checked out every week during the hour my first-grade class visited every Monday – until she quizzed me on the contents and discovered I know them.) That average includes books I read for pleasure.

Reading is a cheap high. There is plenty available, free, at the public library. And one of the advantages of being a book reviewer is publishers send me new books, free. Plus, getting those old books are cheap, if you buy used. Abebooks.com regularly supplies me with those dozen books I read when researching a new book – and I average about $7 each. Often the books were sold new for $40 a copy, 20 years ago.

Need a new idea? Read an old book. That is one of Rumsfeld’s Rules,one I have discovered to be true. Try it yourself. If you are looking for a New Year’s resolution, resolving to read more is a pretty painless one. It is fun, too.

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There are 18 comments.

  1. Vectorman Thatcher

    Seawriter: When I start writing a new book, I typically start off by reading a dozen or so books on the topic. Often they contradict each other. The fun lies in resolving those contradictions and piecing the facts into a greater picture. Often I discover the stuff that “everybody knows” is wrong by doing so.

    Everyone builds on the results of others. Of course, the famous “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” quote applies here:

    When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

    It takes guts to go against common misconceptions.


    The Quote of the Day series is the easiest way to start a fun conversation on Ricochet. There are many open days on the January Signup Sheet. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #1
    • December 28, 2019, at 5:52 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  2. philo Member

    Seawriter: Need a new idea? Read an old book.

    I have a quote jotted down somewhere that goes something like: “You will be the same person five years from now except for the books you read and the people you meet.” (I cannot imagine a version of that that includes “…the tweets you read…”.) 

    • #2
    • December 28, 2019, at 6:56 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. The Reticulator Member

    philo (View Comment):

    Seawriter: Need a new idea? Read an old book.

    I have a quote jotted down somewhere that goes something like: “You will be the same person five years from now except for the books you read and the people you meet.” (I cannot imagine a version of that that includes “…the tweets you read…”.)

    Or the podcasts you listen to?

    • #3
    • December 28, 2019, at 7:46 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Home On The Range, free trumpet sheet music score - YouTube

    Yes, reading is important.

    • #4
    • December 28, 2019, at 7:57 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  5. Mark Camp Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Home On The Range, free trumpet sheet music score - YouTube

    Yes, reading is important.

    Reading is discerning what the writer meant. For example, this writer meant “pronghorn” and not “antelope”, according to some technical expert’s taxonomy. (Having one too few syllables for the meter, pronghorn doesn’t suit and antelope does, but that’s a digression.)

    Seawriter is right that reading gives information, in the end.

    But before it can give information, the reader must discern what assertions the writer meant to assert by the sentences that he wrote, which requires that one discern the component ideas he was referring to with his kit of noun phrases, and what relationships between those ideas he insists must exist, as expressed by his verbs and prepositional phrases.

    It’s a matter of practical importance for us in our conversations. Most of the time we fail to read before responding, or more precisely, pretending to respond. No information flows, as a result.

    • #5
    • December 28, 2019, at 7:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    A life-long love of books means you’re never bored, you don’t need others to entertain you, and you’re always learning something new. Also, avid readers are probably more apt to be more tolerant of other cultures and different points of view. 

    • #6
    • December 28, 2019, at 10:06 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Most of the time we fail to read before responding, or at least pretend to respond.

    Perhaps some people encode their thoughts in such a way that it is too much work to decode what they might mean, so the failure rests squarely with the writer, not the attempted reader. Also, no information is transferred due to the abstruseness and density of the encoding. Also also, and in plainer language, what are you going on about this time, Camper?

    • #7
    • December 28, 2019, at 10:07 PM PST
    • Like
  8. Samuel Block Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Home On The Range, free trumpet sheet music score - YouTube

    Yes, reading is important.

    ‘Tis! 

    I grew up around professional musicians who couldn’t read what you’ve got above. Believe it or not, they also have trouble writing music. 

    I’ve done my best to explain to them that they could literally write an entire song by themselves, and then go through the recording process with musicians who know how to read… But do they listen? 

    Psssssh!

    I thought being Prince of the PIT would’ve brought some perks. (Even Happy Puppy of the PIT is limited… apparently) What the heck am I even here for?

    You guys???

    Pssssssh!

    • #8
    • December 29, 2019, at 12:25 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Beautiful quotes – both Twain and Rumsfeld. I’m slow reader but plug away usually having a non-fiction and a mystery or similar type fiction going. Have not read as much classical fiction as I would like or should. Maybe when I retire? 

    • #9
    • December 29, 2019, at 1:48 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  10. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    I spent most of my life in the lower grades with a book on my lap, and my fingers ready to open it to the page where I left off the very moment I finished the drawing or work sheet the nun was insisting on. Since I was tall, and for whatever reason, the nuns always let the taller kids sit in the back, I never got caught.

    I made my way through “Black Beauty” in second grade, and that lovely story of the horse intrigued me so much I knew I would be a writer when I grew up.

    Third grade I read Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” as well as everything Louisa May Alcott was most well known for.

    As an adult, it was disappointing to realize that becoming a published writer was not going to be the piece of cake I had thought it to be. In fact, I was not a published writer until 1996 or so. (Forty five years old – far older than I as a child imagined I would live to be, as after all, don’t most great writers die while young?)

    My first truly fact driven bit of writing that was published had to do with MTBE, a gas additive being mandated in Calif’s gasoline at 9% by volume. My research really came alive when I discovered the contradictions regarding MTBE. The California Air Resources Board had sent me some work done by a laboratory in Ohio.

    In one of their documents, they claimed that all the worries that MTBE could possibly degrade and dissolve the polymers that formed the components that held gas tanks at gasoline stations together were indeed mere worries – nothing to see, or think about here. But on the very next page, there was a statement that a decent amount of work the Ohio lab had finished indicated the toxin did have the ability to dissolve the gas station gas tanks.

    This was one of the first times in my life that a contradiction gave me a thrill. Like you say, Seawriter, resolving the contradictions by figuring out what it means can be a lot of fun.

    Of course the much bigger thrill was eventually getting to meet the head scientists who had been appointed by Gov Davis to examine MTBE. And to witness the governor banning the mandated levels. (For which I will always believe, he paid with his political life.) I’m proud to this day that I played a small part in that substance being banned. The people who played a much larger part were all the many mostly Republican activists who realized that the toxin was making them sick, and that it should not be so prevalent in our vehicles’ fuel.

    • #10
    • December 29, 2019, at 8:59 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. Mark Camp Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    …it should not be so prevalent in our vehicles’ fuel.

    The question you raise for each of us is,

    “In your subjective opinion, based on current scientific evidence, do the risks of widespread use of MTBE in vehicle fuels, especially in areas where it is used because of high levels of air pollution, outweigh the benefits?”

     Your answer is “yes”.

    Mine is a tentative “no”. The EPA advisory I base it on (see link below) is very old; it is possible that the current scientific evidence would change my opinion.

    With respect to the scientific evidence, the EPA appears to credibly summarize the air quality and public health risks and benefits known at the time.

    • “Studies identify significant air quality and public health benefits that directly result from the use of fuels oxygenated with MtBE, ethanol, or other chemicals” (Emphasis mine)
    • No strong evidence is given of significant human health risks.

    EPA Advisory on MTBE

     

    • #11
    • December 30, 2019, at 8:04 AM PST
    • 1 like
  12. philo Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):…the EPA appears to credibly…

    This part made me giggle.

    • #12
    • December 30, 2019, at 8:26 AM PST
    • 1 like
  13. Seawriter Member
    Seawriter

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    As an adult, it was disappointing to realize that becoming a published writer was not going to be the piece of cake I had thought it to be.

    Well, yes. That is because the supply of writers outstrips the demand for words. It takes very little to set yourself up as a writer. And many, many would-be writers see their task as high art, rather than what it really is: a business where the writer supplies the audience with what the audience desires – information or entertainment (preferably both).

    Further, the gatekeepers, in the form of editors and publishers prize consistency and promptness over high art. Given a choice between a writer known to the gatekeeper who delivers on time, within scope, and requiring little rewrite, versus some unknown more interested in Getting Every Word Right as opposed to on time, guess who the gatekeeper picks every time. 

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    In fact, I was not a published writer until 1996 or so. (Forty five years old – far older than I as a child imagined I would live to be, as after all, don’t most great writers die while young?)

    I was about that age when I sold my first freelance piece. Fortunately writers are like fine wine – they improve with age, and most great writers die at an advanced age. Cervantes, Tennyson and Tolstoi did. And while Dickens, Thackeray, and Rabalais did not die of old age, they certainly lasted into their 50s. Byron died young, true, but that was the exception.

    It is hard to see how someone could be a really great writer in youth. It is a great conceit of the young that literary genius is a monopoly of youth, but without having experienced life how does one really understand it?

    • #13
    • December 30, 2019, at 8:32 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  14. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):
    …it should not be so prevalent in our vehicles’ fuel.

    The question you raise for each of us is,

    “In your subjective opinion, based on current scientific evidence, do the risks of widespread use of MTBE in vehicle fuels, especially in areas where it is used because of high levels of air pollution, outweigh the benefits?”

    Your answer is “yes”.

    Mine is a tentative “no”. The EPA advisory I base it on (see link below) is very old; it is possible that the current scientific evidence would change my opinion.

    With respect to the scientific evidence, the EPA appears to credibly summarize the air quality and public health risks and benefits known at the time.

    • “Studies identify significant air quality and public health benefits that directly result from the use of fuels oxygenated with MtBE, ethanol, or other chemicals” (Emphasis mine)
    • No strong evidence is given of significant human health risks.

    EPA Advisory on MTBE

    Heh. Heh. The EPA has some good people who do some good work some of the time, but often those very good people then find themselves demoted to the basement floor of some previously unknown building, where they do routine busy work while trying to avoid being pink slipped.

    The rest of the time, the EPA is a useful agency for those behemoth industries, like Big Energy, of which MTBE was a favored child, as well as the Big Pesticide Industry. Through the very useful implementation of the governmental agency/industry revolving door, it is not hard to determine that the influence by the very industries over which the EPA is supposed to be exercising due diligence and oversight – that revolving door influence negates much of the oversight.

    Perhaps one of the biggest failures of the EPA was in its non-recognition of the fact that once MTBE went through a vehicle’s internal combustion processes, a great deal of it turned into formaldehyde. Another important consideration was that for vehicles that possessed a carburetor, MTBE apparently might have offered some relief of VOC’s.

    However, and this is a big however: VOC’s are not the only thing the public has to worry about. Formaldehyde is particularly nasty stuff, and having as much as twenty tons of it a day descend on Californians already beleagured atmosphere was not a decent trade off for some VOC reduction. Especially given that in California, due to how the Democrats had been running a hugely onerous program by which anyone whose car or truck did not pass the infamous smog test then lost their car to the auto crushers, most cars on the road were by the time of MTBE’s introduction fuel injected and lacking carburetors, so for those cars, that is, the majority of vehicles on the road at this time, MTBE did basically nothing at all.

    End of Part One

    • #14
    • December 30, 2019, at 6:20 PM PST
    • Like
  15. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Part Two:

    Above and beyond that, the public had proof that MTBE did dissolve the polymers that formed the seams of gasoline station gas tanks, as various water district personnel discovered many gas stations where prior exams had shown very little fuel run off, but once MTBE was used at the 9% level, great amounts of fuel were being lost. Experts estimated that fifty percent of all California aquifers would have been polluted by MTBE by 2015 or so, had it not been banned. Since it makes water taste like kerosene even at 4 parts per billion, this would have been catastrophic. (By 1998, tests of water near a gas station close to my home in Sausalito Calif showed gasoline containing MTBE saturating the water at 91,000 parts per million.)

    BTW, one of the few things I had actually found to the EPA’s credit was their insistence that lead in the gasoline was harming children in inner cities across America. It was only while I undertook the work I did on MTBE that I discovered that the young gentleman who had made the lead discovery was about to be pink slipped by the EPA, within a matter of weeks after his published work on lead was released. However the MacArthur Foundation was simultaneously planning on giving him a genius award. There was ample press coverage of this award at the same time as the termination papers were being drawn up. It would have been far too embarrassing to pink slip this young scientist as he was being touted by one and all, so he was left alone rather than fired. Consequently the major bans on lead in gasoline were well underway by 1986.

    • #15
    • December 30, 2019, at 6:30 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Mark Camp Member

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Part Two:

    Above and beyond that, the public had proof that MTBE did dissolve the polymers that formed the seams of gasoline station gas tanks, as various water district personnel discovered many gas stations where prior exams had shown very little fuel run off, but once MTBE was used at the 9% level, great amounts of fuel were being lost. Experts estimated that fifty percent of all California aquifers would have been polluted by MTBE by 2015 or so, had it not been banned. Since it makes water taste like kerosene even at 4 parts per billion, this would have been catastrophic. (By 1998, tests of water near a gas station close to my home in Sausalito Calif showed gasoline containing MTBE saturating the water at 91,000 parts per million.)

    BTW, one of the few things I had actually found to the EPA’s credit was their insistence that lead in the gasoline was harming children in inner cities across America. It was only while I undertook the work I did on MTBE that I discovered that the young gentleman who had made the lead discovery was about to be pink slipped by the EPA, within a matter of weeks after his published work on lead was released. However the MacArthur Foundation was simultaneously planning on giving him a genius award. There was ample press coverage of this award at the same time as the termination papers were being drawn up. It would have been far too embarrassing to pink slip this young scientist as he was being touted by one and all, so he was left alone rather than fired. Consequently the major bans on lead in gasoline were well underway by 1986.

    From what you imply in these two Parts and in many other posts, the EPA has been in the control of a massive, secret, evil conspiracy of greed for years, one which also controls the Big Corporations (Big Pharma, Petroleum, etc.) and most of the scientific community.

    I am highly skeptical that this conspiracy exists.

    • #16
    • December 31, 2019, at 8:19 AM PST
    • Like
  17. Arahant Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    From what you imply in these two Parts and in many other posts, the EPA has been in the control of a massive, secret, evil conspiracy of greed for years, one which also controls the Big Corporations (Big Pharma, Petroleum, etc.) and most of the scientific community.

    I am highly skeptical that this conspiracy exists.

    Don’t be silly, Mark. Big Pharma is in conspiracy with the FDA, not the EPA.

    • #17
    • December 31, 2019, at 8:30 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  18. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    CarolJoy, Above Top Secret (View Comment):

    Part Two:

    Above and beyond that, the public had proof that MTBE did dissolve the polymers that formed the seams of gasoline station gas tanks, SNIP

    BTW, one of the few things I had actually found to the EPA’s credit was their insistence that lead in the gasoline was harming children in inner cities across America. It was only while I undertook the work I did on MTBE that I discovered that the young gentleman who had made the lead discovery was about to be pink slipped by the EPA, within a matter of weeks after his published work on lead was released. SNIPIt would have been far too embarrassing to pink slip this young scientist as he was being touted by one and all, so he was left alone rather than fired. Consequently the major bans on lead in gasoline were well underway by 1986.

    From what you imply in these two Parts and in many other posts, the EPA has been in the control of a massive, secret, evil conspiracy of greed for years, one which also controls the Big Corporations (Big Pharma, Petroleum, etc.) and most of the scientific community.

    I am highly skeptical that this conspiracy exists.

    The United States’ EPA is the only environmental oversight agency operating in any industrialized nation that allows a company to proclaim what happens to be inside the product that they want the EPA to license. So this means the companies that must report to the EPA do so on the honor system. (What ever could go wrong?)

    The EPA not only does not do any gas spectography or other analyses of products submitted, they do not even employ a single organic chemist to think about what is being submitted.

    For instance: RoundUp. When Monsanto submitted its formula list to the EPA for licensing, back in the 1970’s, the list stated that the product contained glypopsate by 41%, polyoxyethelenamine by 15% & water as the rest.

    However, this left out the fact that formaldehyde was part of the mix. Any organic chemist who thought about the product list and its limited repertoire of chemicals would have seen at once something was wrong: without an aldehyde in the mix, RoundUp would be in cake form. In cake form, it would not be possible to spray it anywhere ever. RoundUp has to have an aldehyde in order to be sprayable.

    Formaldehyde is implicated in being a causal factor in MS. Once I found out about the formaldehyde in RoundUp, I immediately realized why so many times, the individuals I knew who acquired MS were people who exercised a lot. Joggers who ran along roadsides, or in one case, a good friend who was a park ranger.

    Monsanto now uses a different, less risky aldehyde – but damage was done from RoundUp’s initial release clear up til the moment in the 1990’s when formaldehyde was taken out of the mix.

    • #18
    • December 31, 2019, at 10:03 AM PST
    • 4 likes