For my part I deem those blessed to whom, by favour of the gods, it has been granted either to do what is worth writing of, or to write what is worth reading,... --Pliny the younger, nephew of Gaius Plinius Secundus, the father of the modern encyclopedia
My call sign is Zaereth and I am a proud citizen of Anchorage Alaska, USA. I have some experience in several areas, to include metallurgy, forging, lasers, glass working, fluid dynamics, hydraulics, fishing, and more. Please feel free to hang out. Below are some pictures to help brighten up the place. All of my photos have been released into public domain, so feel free to use them.
I joined Wikipedia in an effort to improve accuracy and understandabiliy. I believe that Wikipedia policy is fundamentally flawed, and should state that Wikipedia is about reporting all truths that are significant, verifiable, and reliably sourced. Facts are not opinions, but nearly the polar opposite. I am truly frightened by the media's tendency lately to blur the line between them, (Wikipedia included).
"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Everyone is not entitled to their own facts." --FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps (From Bill Moyers journal, discussing Net Neutrality and the demise of investigative journalism.)
I've contemplated leaving Wikipedia over this, but have decided to continue helping to provide high quality information written in a proper encyclopedic format. However, since I have no interest in "reinventing the wheel", I will steer clear of helping out on policy and guideline pages. (Sometimes history needs to repeat itself, so people can learn it the hard way ... again.) I will continue to hold myself to the higher standards of which a paper encyclopedia would expect.
I love technical articles, but often find them mired in extraneous explanations filled with unnecessarily large words and undecipherable math. One of my favorite quotes is:
An average English word is four letters and a half. By hard, honest labor I've dug all the large words out of my vocabulary and shaved it down till the average is three and a half... I never write "metropolis" for seven cents, because I can get the same money for "city." I never write "policeman," because I can get the same price for "cop."... I never write "valetudinarian" at all, for not even hunger and wretchedness can humble me to the point where I will do a word like that for seven cents; I wouldn't do it for fifteen. --Mark Twain
I also like this quote very much:
A sufficiently paranoid conspiracy theory can never be disproven. --User:Fluzwup/scot
My philosophy can be summed up simply enough:
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend... Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it... If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo. --Bruce Lee
My methodology can also be summed up by the great Bruce Lee:
The localization of the mind means its freezing. When it ceases to flow freely as it is needed, it is no more the mind in its suchness... Turn into a doll made of wood: it has no ego, it thinks nothing, it is not grasping or sticky. Let the body and limbs work themselves out in accordance with the discipline they have undergone... I'm moving and not moving at all. I'm like the moon underneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking. It is not, "I am doing this," but rather, an inner realization that "this is happening through me," or "it is doing this for me." The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action. --Bruce Lee
And even my thoughts about WP:NPOV:
Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe techniques as though not observing... Eliminate "not clear" thinking and function from your root... The perfect way is only difficult for those who pick and choose. Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear. Make a hairbreadth difference and heaven and earth are set apart; if you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease... To see a thing uncoloured by one's own personal preferences and desires is to see it in its own pristine simplicity. --Bruce Lee
He has also affected my thoughts about life in general:
Wisdom does not consist of trying to wrest the good from the evil but in learning to "ride" them as a cork adapts itself to the crests and troughs of the waves... The point is [the] doing of them rather than the accomplishments. There is no actor but the action; there is no experiencer but the experience... Those who gain, lose. Do not precede others, always follow them... Do not run away; let go. Do not seek, for it will come when least expected... All vague notions must fall before a pupil can call himself a master... After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge. --Bruce Lee
- 1 Some very basic writing tips
- 2 Gun control
- 3 Journalism today
- 4 Something to think about
- 5 On science and religion
- 6 On truth
- 7 Spatiality
- 8 Dealing with complex situations
- 9 On consciousness
- 10 Resolving operational conflicts
- 11 On government and politics
- 12 On environmental awareness
- 13 We all mean well
- 14 Dealing with stupid questions
- 15 Dealing with personal attacks
- 16 WP:ENGVAR
- 17 On Time
- 18 On technology
- 19 The elephant in the room
- 20 Wikipedia's biggest areas for improvement
- 21 About me
- 22 Tao
- 23 Articles I've worked on
- 24 User boxes
Some very basic writing tips
User:Zaereth/Writing tips for the amateur writer -- Some brief insights to the many different aspects which are involved in creating coherent prose, and to the underlying reasons behind many of the rules used in the style of encyclopedic writing.
"If you criminalize guns, only criminals will have guns." This old saying is far more profound than it appears on the surface. The fact is, anytime something is made illegal it opens up a criminal enterprise. Just look at the so-called war on drugs. Was the fallacy of Prohibition not enough of a lesson? If guns become illegal, criminal organizations will grow a hundred fold more than the law already allows.
"The rat's in the cellar. You know who you are ... or do you?" --Iron Maiden
Something to think about
We are all stupid. The stupider we are, the smarter we think we are. Only those who realize they are stupid can truely be called wise. --Zaereth
In other words:
No one knows less than he who knows everything. No one is wise but he who understands his ignorance. No one is blind but he who sees not his own fault. --St Cattwg, circa 497 A.D.
On science and religion
The greatest hindrance to the progress of science has always been the belief that all current theories are absolute.
Religion has the same flaw. (Perhaps it's a human flaw?)
Truth is a matter of mind, and to become locked into one set of ideas or theories is a sign of the very narrow-minded. The moment someone begins preaching to me that their version of "truth" is the only possibility, I know I have an extremist whack-job on my hands, and find it best to put as much distance between us as possible. Personally, I've always found that too much agreement makes for boring conversation, but so many people cannot handle the slightest bit of disagreement, for that would shatter their narrow ideals of what truth may be. "Truth is beyond all fixed, set patterns."
Here's a simple question: Name an object with three sides. How about four sides? Five sides?
When asked to do this, most people will pick a triangle, square, and pentagon. Now, name an object with two sides. How about only one side? When thinking about it two-dimensionally, these questions will have most people stumped. However, some brilliant thinkers may say a circle has only two sides (an inside and an outside) and a Mobius strip has only one.
In reality, a triangle has five sides; three edges plus a front and a back. A square has six sides. The circle actually has three sides. For a hollowed-out circle (ring) there must be an inside, in which case there are four. Even the famous Mobius strip has, in fact, two sides; a wide side and a thin side. This is how the world is viewed in three-dimensional thinking. For an object with only one side, you only have to look to the nearest ball, while a hollow sphere has only two sides.
Dealing with complex situations
Nothing natural in the universe is complex. Everything that happens does so because it is the easiest way. Complexity occurs when the human mind becomes involved. When we see something, we tie our brains in knots trying to define it in some meaningful way. We concentrate on a problem endlessly, all the while narrowing our viewpoint to the exclusion of all the information involved.
The art of Jeet Kune Do (the Way of the Intercepting Fist) teaches us to resolve complex issues by avoiding the complexity of the mind, which narrows focus. Jeet Kune Do teaches us to cut through the irrelevant, to flow around obstructions, and strike directly at the heart of the matter, eliminating these things before they become obstacles. Jeet Kune Do teaches us to overcome by adapting ourselves to the problem, rather than trying to make the problem adapt to us. Jeet Kune Do broadens the focus of the conscious mind, allowing a clear view of the entire picture, all at once. This allows the mind to avoid over-conceptualizing the situation, but to simply react to it. At rest, Jeet Kune Do teaches us to mirror the problem; to unconsciously study the problem; to mentally become the problem. In action, it teaches us to surmount the problem by avoiding the obstacles caused by our own conscious-complexity.
Have you ever wondered why the mind operates using two completely separate langages, all at once? Have you ever wondered why the "wordless language" is so quick and precise, far exceeding our speed in the language of words? Humans often seem to have a backward way of looking at things. We assume the Earth is flat. We assume that being lazy makes us less tired. We assume that charity rather than work enriches people's lives. We naturally assume that, when a baseball player throws a pitch, his mind is somehow making all of the necessary calculations of speed and trajectory. We do this even when our common experience tells us the opposite is happening.
Another assumption is that the brain is wired and operates like a computer. That's an aweful big assumption, considering the brain evolved from tiny, microscopic organisms which we assume have no consciousness of their own. If this is true, then it is difficult to explain how consciousness ever evolved; we should be mindless blobs of yogurt.
We like to think of ourselves as individuals but, in actuality, we each are a colony containing trillions of individual animals (cells). In order to survive, such a colony needs to be able to defend itself from attackers, feed its members, ensure the proper flow of goods and services, and repair any consequential damage to its structure. In an ideal colony, everyone has a job, everyone does their job, and everyone gets a decent living from their job, or else criminal enterprises will form (cancer). To ensure the colony can maintain all of its interests, there naturally needs to be a central government, linking all of the various areas into one central hub; a place where everyone can have their complaints resolved, and there needs to be very strong lines of communication between the colony and the government to make this happen (pain). The governing part of the body must deal with external problems as well (senses), which is vital to the entire colony, but which most members are probably not aware. The colony itself, on the other hand, can operate almost independently of the governing body, fending off diseases and repairing damage, etc, in processes the mind is completely unaware of.
This is a very interesting theory on how consciousness evolved from the single-celled organism into what we know today, called the single-cell theory of consciousness. New research emerging is beginning to show that the cytoskeletons of each cell may possess a quantum-computational power which exceeds what we currently think our brains are capable of --by a full order of magnitude. It also shows that such a computer/brain is capable of switching in the nanosecond range, rather than on the order of milliseconds, which is the rate at which the human synapse switches. If each neuron is an entire quantum-brain within itself, then this would not only explain the need for the two separate languages, but also the different operating speeds of the conscious and unconscious minds. (It also explodes the brains computational capacity by many, many orders of magnitude.) In this theory, each cell experiences our consciousness, and each has a pretty strong say in what happens. Not only that, it is quite possible that such a connection could extend past the cells called neurons, and into the cells of the body itself.
Keep in mind that consciousness (waking consciousness) is a very, very --extremely small part of the human mind. However, it is an interesting fact that the body can survive without the mind, but the mind cannot survive without the body.
Resolving operational conflicts
"So, uh, we have a little different way of dealing with operational conflicts. We actually have a systematic way of dealing with them that is just kind of engrained in what we do and, and it's a very simple, four-step process: If you see a problem, you get the person's attention, and to get their attention you use their name. "Joe," or "Captain," or "Doctor," or whatever. You state the problem --clearly. But here's where things fall apart. If you state the problem and stop there, you're nagging, but if you propose a solution, that's different. So if you've got a valid solution, you've made the next step. Finally, you have to seek agreement, because that kind of seals the deal; that closes the deal for you. Because, when you ask somebody, when you say, "Here's what I see as the problem. Here's what I see is the solution. Don't you agree?" They gotta say yes or no, and once they say yes they're committed. It's a very tried-and-true method to get things done." --Patrick Mendenhall
On government and politics
Corruptissima re publica plurimae leges. (The more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws.) --Cornelius Tacitus (55-117 A.D.)
On environmental awareness
People often claim that we're going to destroy the environment. I think this shows the great egocentric nature of humanity; we still think we're the center of the universe. On the other hand, history seems to indicate that the environment has suffered far greater disasters than humanity, and each time, although the environment changed forever, it has always survived. It is certainly encouraging to realize that the environment will continue long after humanity is gone. However, at the same time, the discouragement comes upon the realization that we may have already outlived our usefulness to it. We are part of the environment and, through our own actions, it may yet destroy us.
We all mean well
Good intentions without proper foresight has led many straight to hell. (Please don't take us with you.)
Dealing with stupid questions
The Vikings had the right idea ... if not the tact.
- Har answered, "A wise man would not ask such a question, for all are able to tell this, but if you alone have become so stupid that you have not heard of it, then I would forgive you for asking unwisely once than that you should go any longer in ignorance of what you ought to know." --The Prose Edda
I treat them the same way. Although I try to be more courteous, I think it's very helpful to answer questions, but in a very thoughtful yet direct way. The following are some stupid questions and their answers:
- Q: Why did the chicken cross the road? A: Because it was in her way.
- Q: What came first, the chicken or the egg? A: Eggs were around for millions of years before chickens.
- Q: You have an orange, an apple, and a grape. Which one's the raisin? A: None of them.
- Q: Which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of gold? A: Neither, they both weigh a pound.
Dealing with personal attacks
When quick to attack, you expose your weakness. When quick to retaliate, you display your fear. When quick to pass judgement, you show your prejudice. When quick to accuse, you share your guilt. Always when you are easily offended will you reveal your shame.
When facing adversity, you display your courage. When remaining amiable, you show your strength. When overcoming problems, you reveal your cunning. When reaching out to compromise, you share your wisdom. Only when you are content with yourself can nothing insult you.
It does seem interesting to me that speakers of British English work so diligently to preserve French spellings, but who am I to judge. (In French, however, it is actually pronounced "colour.")Most of these words existed long before spelling did, so I guess it little matters, except that articles should use one or the other for neatness.
Time may or may not be linear. For all I know, it is distance divided by speed, so time may simply be the "stopped" reference-frame by which we measure speed (the face of the clock rather than the hands). Time may not move at all. Interestingly, the Greek symbol for time was the period, and the symbol of Chronos, depicting past, present, future and uncertainty, became the basis for most of our modern punctuation. (Ancient Greek did not use punctuation, and the mystery of its arrival is highly debated.) However, one thing seems clear, and that is: Our perception of time is not linear, but exponential.
The fist thing to understand about time is that it exists in two parts: What it actually is and what our limited perspective perceives it as being.
Time appears to be relative to the amount of time we've experienced, and progresses in an accelerating fashion. When a person is an hour old, an hour is a lifetime. (A sense of time doesn't seem to develop until a person has experienced about 20,000 hours.) To a five year old, an hour may as well be a week. (This is one reason I was shocked at so many doctors prescribing Ritalin for kids, just to slow them down to the parent's level. For kids I know who took it, it destroyed something inside they needed in later life, like the incredible speed at which they learn.) The older you get, the shorter those hours become. If we lived forever, time would begin moving so fast that we could never keep up with it. Therefore, perhaps death is simply the resetting of the genetic clock, allowing us to move, grow as a species, and evolve with the times. From this perception, no matter how long you live, you will have lived a lifetime.
The past is an illusion of memory. The future is an illusion of imagination. Both are predictable with varying degrees of certainty, becoming less predictable the further they move from the present. (i.e.: A person could rarely predict they'll be in a car wreck a few days in advance, but a few seconds in advance it may become certain.) The only time truly known to exist is now. The only place you can affect your future, and therefore your past, is right in this moment. Live in the moment.
Everything has its equal share of benefits and drawbacks. No good is ever gained without an equal loss in some other respect. This makes technology highly adaptable for specific situations, while completely unsuitable for others. For example, examine the technology of a Japanese katana. It is an extremely effective weapon when used in the Japanese style of fighting, where the fighter rarely makes blade-to-blade contact but goes directly for the kill. However, it is a poor weapon in the sword-and-buckler combat of European-style fighting, and visa-versa. The very benefits that make it good for one become detrimental for the other.
Modern technology is no different. Digital music was a wonderful invention, but the signal is incremental rather than the smooth flow in pitch and tone produced by an analog signal. Analog may be prone to signal degradation, such as noise or static, but can still be very understandable with an extremely bad signal. On the other hand, digital produces a very clear reception, but the signal must be very strong or else the receiver can not interpret the data and the TV pixelates or the CD starts skip-skip-skip-skipping. (You can see this on DTV all the time, where it literally gets confused, going "uh, uh, uh, uh, Brrrrr, th-th-th, I don't understand, uh, uh...") The human mind is far more capable of interpreting data than any machine.
The effect technology has on humans is very comparable. Technology, without a doubt, makes our lives easier. However, a hundred years ago, only athletes needed to go to a gym. Forty years ago, most airline pilots could recover manual flight during a flight-system failure. Just twenty years ago, most people could remember at least five important phone numbers. Both the body and the mind need exercise and, without it, we become weak and frail. What's more, these traits are carried on evolutionarily. The key to the survival of any species is its adaptability to change, and the human genus has excelled at this for a relatively short period of time. We owe much of this to our growing technology. The real problem, of course, is that our technology may have grown to the point that we cannot survive without it. Thus, the irony is that the very technology that makes us so adaptable may yet drive us to extinction, because we may be unadaptable to its sudden loss. (See Mad Max.)
For these reasons I believe it is useful to remember the benefits our old technology provided, lest they become lost forever. Just because something is new doesn't necessarily make it better. It is simply a change in the benefits and drawbacks. Like many species who came before us, we have found a niche, and that niche relies on a very narrow set of parameters in order to function. Like many species before us, we may be lost when those parameters are upset and our niche falls apart.
The elephant in the room
Which sounds better? Let's say, I pay you $100.00 today, or give you two pennies today, doubling it every day for 30 days. Many people will jump at that hundred dollars. However, if you calculate it out, 230 comes out to just about 11 million dollars. All that from just two pennies and 30 days. That's the power of exponentials! There really isn't much of an increase until those last few days, and then it skyrockets.
The population of the Earth is growing at an exponential rate, and we are reaching the point where the curve on the graph is nearly vertical. It has been a mere 60 generations since Christ, and just 3000 generations from our oldest known ancestor, and in these last few generations we have experienced an unprecedented amount of growth which will only increase in the future. At this rate, in a few more generations Earth will be "standing-room only." All of the alternate technologies and all the king's men will never be able to quell the need all of this life has for energy. Nor will the Earth sufficiently be able to dissipate all of the energy/entropy we use/lose, which is the real problem. (We concern ourselves so much with where to get energy that we pay no attention to where it goes when we're through.)
It may be impossible to solve the problem of climate change. Once the bell is rung it can't be un-rung. Only in comic books can people control the weather. However, only one thing is going to solve our contribution to its change, and that is to solve to problem of overpopulation. In the past, balance was maintained through war; as humans are the only natural predator of humans. In the future, balance must be restored, but perhaps we can find more peaceful means. Unfortunately, China is the only country that has ever come up with a logical plan to combat climate change. If we don't do something, nature will surely restore the balance for us, and we may not like the results.
Wikipedia's biggest areas for improvement
You make your own position seem worse than it actually is when you mischaracterize the position of your opponents. (The difference between Wikipedia and sound-bite politics, I hope, is that we should try really hard to avoid cute statements that misrepresent the facts.) ...having a biography with a statement like this is precisely what gives rise to the perception that anyone can write any old nonsense into Wikipedia they want. We need to insist on higher quality. --Jimbo Wales
I see great potential in Wikipedia, but find it to be somewhat stuck in a rut. The well intended policy has become overly detailed, convoluted, and hard to follow. Words now have their own definitions, and the spirit of the policies are undermined by their complexity. Wikipedia itself is often just as cluttered and disorganized. There is a simple writing structure that is used by encyclopedias that is not found here. There is rarely double checking of facts, and often opinions are portrayed as fact. Plagiarism seems to be commonplace, which is the cardinal sin of writing. (Even self-plagiarism is frowned upon.) I take writing very seriously, so I apologize if I get a little passionate about it.
Stagnation occurs when the old fails to flow out and the new fails to flow in. Any closed system will eventually increase in it's randomness and disorder. There is a natural human tendency to become stagnant in one's own ideas, and Wikipedia is not immune to this form of entropy. (See below for more on entropy.)
Wikipedia is often a collaboration of one. The usual method is for someone to add something, then someone else reverts it, and maybe after an edit war, argue about it on the talk page. The discussion pages are rather useless for seeking advice, as most arguments tend to boil down to, "It must go in." "It must never go in." The various sides become entrenched in their own viewpoints, and discussions can become like a World War One battlefield. Often, the differences between the two sides is as mundane as "deletionist" versus "inclusionist," or "republican" versus "democrat," making it nearly impossible for someone to reach that middle-ground. No man's land. Collaboration for wording, structure and placement of information is a rarity here. In most cases, no response on a talk page is about as close to a green light as one can expect. The response to most problems that an article, guideline, or policy may have is to add more and more words while giving less information.
Nothing I could say on the subject beats the advice given by Clarence A. Phipps, from the book Fundamentals of electrical control
The problem with the original circuit was worsened by additional relays the engineer had added to "compensate" for the apparent fault. We are not inferring that the engineer was incompetent, he had just become too involved with his original logic to look at it objectively. This illustrates the point that all of us occasionally "cannot see the forest for the trees," and should consider asking someone else to take a fresh look at a problem that has us puzzled. There should be no shame in having someone look over your shoulder when you hit a snag in the system you are working on. In this case history, a simple change in the input hardware allowed us to remove the problem, instead of correcting it with more circuitry.
As a student of the English language, I despise the form of writing known as legalese, (and even its technical cousin, which I will call "techniqese"). This sneaky language consists of altering the definitions of words slightly to achieve a very specific meaning which is not apparent to the untrained observer. Lawyers become politicians as a means of job security, so they can make laws which no one except a lawyer can understand, littered with loopholes and other tricks. Wikipedia policy is falling into this trap of instruction creep. We are told on the policy pages that "verifiability" does not mean the same thing as the dictionary definition. If Wikipedia is about reliable sourcing, then my suggestion would be to find the proper word, and to make sure that policy definitions match reliable sourcing, so that all who come here will be able to understand.
Structure is really very simple. It's one of the first things taught in writing. Start with a lead, (often spelled lede in writing). This should very briefly cover the entire article at about a sixth grade level, and is only concerned with answering the question what. Next comes an introduction section. The intro is really an expanded lede, covering the entire article in a bit more depth, at about a tenth grade level, briefly answering the questions what, where, when and who. Further sections get into higher, college level explanations, covering all questions, including technical questions, such as how, and the opinion seeking questions, why and do/does. There should be a summary section, summarizing the article at about a tenth grade level. Except the lede, each section should have an intro paragraph, content paragraphs, and a summary paragraph. Each paragraph should have an intro sentence, content, and a summary sentence. All questions should be answered in this order: what, where, when, who, how, why, and does/do.
Of course, writing is not necessarily so rigid, but this is the way in which the human brain categorizes and stores information. Once mastering this simple format, a person's writing will become clearer and their articles more enjoyable to read.
Verifiability + Reliable sourcing + Neutral point of view + Notability
These are often treated as separate things to be used as mere arguing points, as if each are some how loopholes intended to circumvent the others. These things need to work together for Wikipedia to ever be considered reliable. The definitions of these nouns are very clear, which can be summed up as "factuality," "authority testament," "balanced opinion," and "significance." Facts, and even the facts surrounding an opinion, can be verified by the authority testament found in reliable sources. These facts need to be significant to achieve notability, and opinions need to be balanced with opposing opinions, where they exist. This balance must be in proportion to the notability of the information, and delivered in a dispassionate tone to achieve neutrality. It is all really just that simple.
Wikipedia is full of many useful policies and guidelines, showing how to correctly compose a readable, understandable, accurate, and neutral article. Unfortunately, this tends to be used as an exact model of how every article should look, but sometimes different subjects require a different approach or level of care. These policies and guidelines are as essential to an encyclopedia as building and electrical laws are to contractors. However, all of these things are the minimal conditions that must be met. They don't mean that we can't do better; they simply mean that we can do no worse.
This not so simple thing is vital to improving the quality of Wikipedia. Facts, (even the facts about opinions), are verifiable, and can be found in reliable sources. However, information is often wrong, even from the best source. Sometimes meanings are lost in translation, such as, an author who reads a scientific study may translate something wrong. A magazine reporter may read the book, and further mistranslate information, and so on. It becomes sort of a "heard it through the grapevine" effect. Some sources, such as a university study or book, just do much more thorough research than others, such as television or magazines. News outlets do their best, but are bound by very short deadlines. There becomes an obvious order to the reliability of sources. The most reliable sources are those which offer a list of their own references. (I learned when building lasers that most people who write about it have never tried to build one of their own.) Checking for accuracy can actually be fun, but may lead to some arguments. Wikipedia policy should encourage the use of multiple sources, focusing on the three most reliable concurring references for disputed lines, to help avoid unnecessary edit warring. Experts should be encouraged to help, for they usually have access to the best sources, but they should be discouraged from providing unsourced expertise. (No original research, which goes straight to reliable sourcing.)
The old preacher's trick has been used since the dawn of time. Take a paragraph out of context and combine it with another to lead the reader to enlightenment, and you are engaging in synthesis. (Does the Bible really say the first person was Adam, or did he call himself something else? Was Adam just one person, or a people? Go back and read it carefully, in context.) The word quite literally translates from the ancient Greek, syn-theos-sis, meaning: Making-up God's actions. (A "syn" by Christian standards.) Synthesis occurs anytime an author tries to convey their own ideas and theories, using the work of one or several others as supporting evidence. This "evidence" is often taken out of context, as the conclusion which the writer is aiming for is not usually supported by the conclusions of the sources. Synthesis is practical when forming a hypothesis and is often used by teachers, but it has no place in an encyclopedia. It is of vital importance that Wikipedia should never lead readers to a conclusion. An encyclopedia's purpose is to provide information to be used when learning about a subject, but never to teach that subject.
I think the internet is providing more evidence to back up Darwin's theory. In a world without consequences, even grown men and women will behave as monkeys. Why is it that the people who always cry "civility" are the ones who never display any? I have absolutely no tolerance for rudeness and childish behavior, and believe that Wikipedia is far too lenient on such matters. That, I fear, is just a new product of the internet environment. I can only try to treat others with the respect and dignity that I would if we were working together in a professional office, and not to cower behind my keyboard spouting insults that I would never dare have the guts to say to someone's face. If someone witnesses incivility toward another, it is not a violation of the Wikipedia:Assume good faith policy to point out their misconduct, but rather, it is our duty as the community to do so.
In 1972, Irving Janis, in his book Victims of Groupthink, added a new dimension to the study of group behavior and group dynamics when he described “groupthink” as:
“… a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are involved in a cohesive in-group; when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative course of action… Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.” --(Janis, 1972, p. 9)
Early in his book, Janis gives the following story as an example of groupthink:
“Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem. Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction. The group agreed. The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.” Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos. The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day. The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking. Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.” --(Ibid, p. 9)
Deletionism versus inclusionism
To me, these standpoints are ridiculous. So are most arguments about censorship. Obviously, there is certain information that should be included and some that should not. Usually this is on the grounds of notable versus trivia. More often, however, the argument should be about presentation and organization. It is possible to present any information professionally. It is not censorship to leave out excessively graphic images and to use a more clinical type of analysis. It is also not censorship to leave out information that does not specifically define the subject. Information that is notable but irrelevant to the subject can still be used, but should be put in its proper place, and that sometimes means under a different subject. Finally, the information should be presented as a summary. This means leaving out excessively boring details and concentrating on the overall meaning intended by the sources; the nitty-gritty. All of this requires editorial judgment. The goal should be to create the best introduction to the sources that we can, always keeping the reader in mind. When writing or editing an article, keep in mind the presentation and the organization of the information. Ask yourself, is it easy to read and understand? Is the information necessary to define the subject. Does it convey the overall meaning with as little detail as possible? Does it show good taste and avoid pandering to lurid curiosity?
||An editor thinks something might be wrong with this page. That editor won't actually make any effort to fix it,
but can rest assured that they've done their encyclopedic duty by sticking on a tag.
Please allow this tag to languish indefinitely at the top of the page, since nobody knows exactly what the tagging editor was worked up about.
Personally, I view tagging as a complete waste of time; time which could better be spent improving articles. In all of my time here, I've never seen an article helped by the placement of an ambiguous tag at the top. Perhaps this is due to the possibility that, due to over-exposure, society in general is becoming immune to advertisements. Perhaps it is just that tags are far too general to provide anyone with a clue as to what exactly needs to be improved. What I do know is that I tend to ignore all tags. I neither add them nor remove them ... come to think of it, I don't even look at them. When I find an article that has a problem, I usually bring it up on the talk page. Sometimes people respond, and the great process of collaboration can take place. If no response comes forth, I usually make the changes myself, rather than waste time tagging the article. Many times I find a specific comment or question that I can answer, and will usually get around to including that information at some point. Toward the benefit of the encyclopedia, I find that tagging has the opposite effect that is usually intended. At best, it gives the appearance of laziness; at worst, it promotes laziness.
The one exception to this seems to be the inline "citation needed" tags, which show exactly what needs to be done. These are probably the most helpful tags Wikipedia has.
Lobbying and filibustering
Not surprisingly, Wikipedia is open to the same form of attacks that undermine the US government: Lobbying and filibustering. Lobbying is simply a paid-advocacy group paying someone to push their cause. Filibustering is the hijacking of a discussion with endless statements (walls of text), circular arguments, rationalizations and, when all else fails, personal attacks.
Wikipedia is made up of many, many good editors and writers alike. This includes code writers, debuggers, and the like. One of the best things about participating in Wikipedia is getting to meet so many people with such high integrity. Unfortunately, most of the world is not that way. Assuming good faith is a great way to promote a friendly environment, but too often will lead to others taking advantage of that policy. In the real world, people quickly find out that misguided trust is often not in our best interest. This is why we lock our doors and avoid dark alleys. In the real world, trust must usually be earned, and, once someone's trust is lost, it's almost impossible to earn it back.
Assume good faith does not mean that we should continue to assume good faith once bad faith has been demonstrated.
The problem with lobbying is that it cannot possibly be done in good faith. No matter how one tries to rationalize it, when your pay depends upon your work, your only incentive is to please your employer. This means, no matter how trustworthy you may be, you can never be any more trustworthy than your employer. Every profressional writer or editor has an intrinsic bias that cannot be avoided, although many will try to ratioalize it (which is more or less lying to themselves). This is why professional writers are very careful in choosing their publishers by reputation.
Wikipedia is different, becsqause most of us are not getting paid by anybody. Therefore, we can automatically assume our intentions are good and be judged solely on the value of our contributions. The problem is: Nearly all of us have day jobs and cannot afford to spend all day lobbying for our particular cause. Unfortunately, those who are getting paid can afford to do just that, and this imbalances the whole system. Suddenly, the rest of us have no voice, because the lobbyists can dominate the conversation with endless rounds of filibustering. Allowing this type of behavior will surely destroy the reputation of Wikipedia in the eyes of public opinion, just as it has done to the government's.
Hi. My name is not important, but, for ease in communication, you can call me Zaereth. If you've come looking to get to know me better, I am honored. There is really not much to tell. I am a male in my early 40s, living in Anchorage Alaska. I've been writing and dealing with editors all of my life. I am an avid bike rider. (In fact, stand on any road in Anchorage long enough, and sooner or later I'll come riding by on my 10-speed.) However, I'm not one of those who rides out in the street with the cars --on their side of the white line-- because I have the sense God gave a mosquito to know that they're big enough to smash the hell out of me. My favorite part of hiking is running down the mountain as fast as possible, leaping from out-crop to out-crop. I like to rock-climb without a rope. I prefer to ride snowmachine (snowmobile) much faster than most people are comfortable with. I love German Shepherds, and find them to be the most versatile dogs, taking to military-style training just as well as seeing-eye work, or just as a family companion.
Of the sixteen personality types, mine is ISTP (Introverted Sensing Thinking Percieving). A good but quick description, from here is: "Quiet and reserved, interested in how and why things work. Excellent skills with mechanical things. Risk-takers who they live for the moment. Usually interested in and talented at extreme sports. Uncomplicated in their desires. Loyal to their peers and to their internal value systems, but not overly concerned with respecting laws and rules if they get in the way of getting something done. Detached and analytical, they excel at finding solutions to practical problems."
I was raised a presbyterian, but no longer affiliate myself with that religion. I study all forms of religion as mythology. I find insight in all of them, but none seem complete to me. As a believer in Jung's "collective conscious," I've been fascinated by the correlation between stories such as Genesis, Chaos, and Ragnarok, and how these seem to match the current scientific view when taken symbolically. It seems to me that, if someone truely believes in an all-powerful God, then surely they must concede that there is more to him than can ever be written in any book, religion, science, or philosophy, and should be open to learning about him from every aspect. Like all evolution, any science or religion that is unadaptable to change will be doomed to eventually fail.
I am a pragmatist. I believe that knowledge is only as good as the results it produces. I believe in using the highest quality sources, for I don't want to look like an idiot when someone comes to double check my work. I desire to know all things, from every point of view.
I am a believer in the theory of evolution, and in Einstein's theory of gravity. I often pick on these subjects, because I prefer to use examples of things which I have studied in great detail. I am a believer in Tao, and find that the philosophy fits very closely with scientific theory and quantum mechanics. I believe that, if there is some "ultimate truth," it will always be beyond our ability to conceive. The best any good encyclopedia can hope for is to present all of the various "truths" in a fair and accurate manner.
I hate politics. I am neither democrat nor republican, and am with George Washington in my belief that a party system is detrimental to any government, creating an "us against them" environment rather than a sense of unity. (The Divided States of America?) I will not vote based on any party, but based on the character of the individual. While I am all for conservation, I believe that to be a conservative generally means that someone is a prude, while to be a liberal means that someone is a waste. I'm also with Andy Rooney in my belief that if people don't care enough to research the issues, then they shouldn't be encouraged to vote.
I am a firm believer in a person's right to privacy, and agree with the Society of Professional Journalists, in that, "only an overriding public need can justify an intrusion into anyone's privacy." As such, I do not post my personal information on the computer. I prefer to let my quality of workmanship be the measure of my integrity. It is that philosophy which is the cornerstone of writing, beyond the realm of Wikipedia. I will never be a quantity editor, but will focus my efforts on quality, even though only the former is recognized around here.
The main principles of Tao are as follows:
1. Indefinability - Tao encompasses all things and there is nothing to compare it to. While the effects of Tao can be measured, Tao itself can not. In other words -- "There is a limit to the accuracy with which reality can be measured." --see: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
2. Inexplicablilty - While Tao can be known, it can never be fully understood or adequately explained. -- "Any logical model of reality is incomplete and possibly inconsistent, and must be continuously refined in the face of new observations." --see: Godel's Incompleteness Theorem
3. Oneness - Tao is everything, nothing and always. All things are Tao, as all things are always within Tao. -- "Energy and matter can neither be created or destroyed, but can only change place and form." --see: The First law of thermodynamics.
4. Cyclicity - Tao creates balance. The greater the effort to upset the balance of Tao; the greater the loss will be when balance is restored. -- "The entropy of any closed system always tends to increase, and thus the nature of any given system is continuously changing even as efforts are directed toward maintaining it in its original form." --see: The Second law of thermodynamics.
5. Harmony - Tao maintains balance. When an imbalance is created, an opposite imbalance is also created, so that the overall balance of the universe is maintained. -- "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." see The Third law of motion.
Articles I've worked on
I guess its customary to list some of the article to which I've contributed.
Contributed over 80% of the information to:
Contributed more than 50% of the information to:
Contributed 1 or more entire sections to:
Made minor contributions and/or comments to:
Ablation, Aconitum, Aerobatic maneuver, Alloy wheel, Anchorage, Alaska, Anti-reflective coating, Arc lamp, Arc flash, Austenite, Beam splitter, Brinelling, Dichroic filter, Diffraction grating, Dogfight, Dream Pool Essays, Electric glow discharge, Fluorescent light, Fused quartz, Hamon (swordsmithing), Harmonic analysis, Hebron glass, Incandescent light bulb, Infraparticle, Iridescence, Japanese sword polishing, Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor, Mirror, Mount Foraker, Mount Hunter (Alaska), Mount McKinley, Multiple-prism dispersion theory, Nd:YAG laser, Pattern welding, Petrolsoft Corporation, Phosphorescence, Potential energy, Pulse forming network, Reynolds number, Rhodamine 6G, Spectralon, Stacking-fault energy, Tatara (furnace), Template:Steels, Torr, Wedge prism, Wolverine
Made extensive comments on, but no significant additions to:
- This user learns more about a person by reading something they've written than from the information contained in a million of their user boxes. However, every once in a while, I come across one that really says something:
More precisely stated in the way of Tao: The universe is self-balancing. Any effort to artifically create balance will only disrupt this self-balancing nature.
- This user understands that, in English, "user boxen" is a verb, (to make more user boxed), not plural. "I don't want to user boxen my user page."