Justin Li

Some Quotes


I've stored up a lot of quote from books I've been reading. It's time to unload some of them to the internets. Some of these are just new insights (like the first one), some of these describe how I feel very well (like the Obama one about his daughters), and some are just

Traditions in a Rootless World, Lynn Davidman
Note - required for class. Not that interesting, but at the time I was questioning why sociologists need to be emersed in the culture they're studing.

Contemporary ethnography is understood by its followers as a process of interpretation rather than explanation. Phenomenological approaches in social science [...] cannot tell us why some people do one thing and others do not. Thus, rather than try to find the distinctive characteristics of joiners, ethnographers of religious communities instead try to portray the religious world as it is experienced by those inside or entering it.

Humans are always engaged in an ongoing process of ordering and making sense of their experiences. The language people use to talk about their experiences and the sequence of their stories "reveal the world that they see and in which they act." Because everyday life encompasses an ongoing process of constructing the meanings of our experience, the ways in which people talk about their experiences are as important as the content to the experiences themselves.

Shocking Science, Geoffrey Carr (The Economist, The World in 2009)

Someone once accused Dr [Craig] Venter of playing God. His reply was, "We're not playing."

Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Thomas Friedman
Note - This book starts off great, but about halfway it starts to get really repetitive.

"The biodiversity of the planet is a unique and uniquely valuable library that we have been steadily burning down - one wing at a time - before we have even cataloged all the books, let along read them all" - John Holdren, Woods Hole Research Center

Jeff Wacker, the futurist at Electronic Data Systems, likes to say that innovators are those people who know the 99 percent that everybody knows and therefore are able to create the 1 percent that nobody knows. If you don't know the 99 percent, or cannot get access to it, you will not have the foundation to create the new 1 percent. More likely, you will just re-create part of 99 percent that everyone already knows.

"A series of great opportunities disguised as insoluble problems" - John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, on the energy-climate challenge

Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama
Note - I highly recommend this book. Not only because Obama is the president, but it really is well written and highly enjoyable.

We ended up spending the afternoon together, talking and drinking coffee. She told me about her childhood in Chicago, the absent father and struggling mother, the South Side six-flat that never seemed warm enough in the winter and got so hot in the summer that people went out by the lake to sleep. She told me about the neighbors on her block, about walking past the taverns and pool halls on the way to church on Sunday. She told me about evenings in the kitchen with uncles and cousins and grandparents, the stew of voices bubbling up in laughter. Her voice evoked a vision of black life in all its possibility, a vision that filled me with longing - a longing for place, and a fixed and definite history. As we were getting up to leave, I told Regina I envied her. "For what?" I don't know. For your memories, I guess." Regina looked at me and started to laugh, a round, full sound from deep in her belly. "What's so funny?" "Oh, Barack," she said, catching her breath, "isn't life something? And here I was all this time wishing I'd grown up in Hawaii."

In her smiling, slightly puzzled face, I saw what all children must see at some point if they are to grow up - their parents' lives revealed to them as separate and apart, reaching out beyond the point of their union or the birth of a child, lives unfurling back to grandparents, great-grandparents, an infinite number o f chance meetings, misunderstandings, projected hopes, limited circumstances.

Who was I, who shed no tears at the loss of his own?

I imagined Regina's grandmother somewhere, her back bent, the flash of her arms shaking as she scrubbed an endless floor. Slowly, the old woman lifted her head to look straight at me, and in her sagging face I saw that what bound us together went beyond anger or despair or pity.
What was she asking of me, then? Determination, mostly. The determination to push against whatever power kept her stooped instead of standing straight. The determination to resist the easy or the expedient. You might be locked into a world not of your own making, her eyes said, but you still have a claim on how it is shaped. You still have responsibilities.
... Beneath layers of hurt, beneath the ragged laughter, I heard a willingness to endure. Endure - and make music that wasn't there before.

Later that night, back home in Chicago, I sat at the dinner table, watching Malia and Sasha as they laughed and bickered and resisted their string beans before their mother chased them up the stairs and to their baths. Alone in the kitchen washing the dishes, I imagined my two girls growing up, and I felt the ache that every parent must feel at one time or another, that desire to snatch up each moment of your child's presence and never let go - to preserve every gesture, to lock in for all eternity the sight of their curls or the feel of their fingers clasped around yours.

Intimate Strangers, Lillian Rubin
Note - this book was mostly psychoanalytic babble, but some of the interview quotes and field studies were interesting.

Suddenly, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to work anymore; it no longer seemed like such fun. It's one thing to work because you want to, another because you have to. It makes a difference, too, if working is defined as helping out - which is the way most married women characters their presence in the work force - or as the mainstay of support for the family.

from the beginning, life is a process of... internalizing representations from the external world.

A man may lust after /women/, but a woman lusts after /a man/. For a woman, sex usually has meaning only in a relational context - perhaps a clue to why so many girls never or rarely masturbate in adolescence or early adulthood... For with them, an emotional connection in a relationship generally is a stimulus, if not a precondition, for the erotic. If women depend on the emotional attachment to call up the sexual, men rely on the sexual to spark the emotional, as these words... show: "Having sex with her makes me feel much closer so it makes it easier to bridge the emotional gap, so to speak. It's like the physical sex opens up another door, and things and feelings can get expressed that I couldn't before. For women, emotional attachments without sex are maintained with little difficulty or discomfort; fr men, they're much more problematic. It's not that they don't exist at all, but that they're less common and fraught with many more difficulties and reservations.

Over two-thirds of the single men couldn't name a best friend. Of those who could, it was much more likely to be a woman than a man who held that place in their lives. In contrast, over three-fourths of the single women had no problem in identifying a best friend, and almost always that person was a woman. Among those who were married, far more men than women named a spouse as a best friend, their most trusted confidante, and/or the one they would be most likely to turn to in emotional distress. For the married women, it was a strikingly different picture. Even when a woman did name her husband to one or more of these roles, it was never exclusively his, as was most likely to be the case with a man. Most women identified at least one, usually more, trusted friends to whom they could turn in a troubled moment, and they spoke openly and ardently about the importance of these relationships in their lives.

Therefore, most men sat silently for a long while when I asked, "Who would you turn to if you came home one night and your wife announced she was leaving you?" When they finally spoke, it was with great hesitation as the realization came to them that there would be no friend to whom they could turn in that moment of pain and shock.