O U R R E A D E R S W R I T E
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Pride in the profession
Wilson's role in Jim Crow
Really, a kludge?
A real campus, even then
400 years, and counting
China has other priorities
I was very touched by Bryan Fultz's story
["After the Fire,"
September] and the fact that he plans to become a burn
nurse. As an OB nurse, I am always grateful for the people
who work in areas that I would consider difficult. By the
same token, I know the ED nurses are always happy to get
laboring women up to us because childbirth is not within
their comfort level. Nurses all have to find the niche that
they feel best in. Although Fultz had to go through hell to
get healthy, I am glad he will use his experience to help
others. This story reminded me of how proud I am to be a
I was surprised that W. Barksdale Maynard's article "More Than a Mere Student" [September] failed to mention Woodrow Wilson's critical role in extending Jim Crow.
From the end of the Civil War through the term of Republican WilliamTaft, Washington, D.C., was relatively free of the "separate but equal" legislation that almost guaranteed that black Americans received education, accommodations, and working conditions inferior to those available to white Americans. This respect and sanctuary for black Americans in the South came to an end in 1913 when President Wilson extended segregation to the federal government.
It is tragic that a man who was "on fire with passion to
lead men and achieve greatness" sought to achieve personal
greatness by supporting a political compromise that crushed
the lives of so many of his fellow citizens.
In "The Maestra
Tunes Up" [September], Dale Keiger states that in
September Marin Alsop would "inaugurate her first season as
the first woman ever appointed music director of a major
American orchestra." Maestra Alsop was for 12 years music
director of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Is the CSO
less a "major orchestra" than the BSO? Orchestra rankings
are at best difficult, subjective, and fleeting. In a 1994
review of the top 100 orchestras in the world, there were
but 19 from the United States. The BSO ranked 16th of 19.
The CSO didn't make the list. But does ranking 16 of 19
qualify for title of major American orchestra? Hardly,
especially, if by use of that term, the reader gets the
impression that Maestra Alsop's previous assignments are to
be dwarfed by her new position with the BSO.
Like a man with a jar full of sand and water bragging that he has captured the essence of the sea and its mysteries, so is [David J.] Linden in his appraisal of the amazingly complex human brain ["Your Brain on Evolution," Wholly Hopkins, September].
Dr. Linden, have you come up with a better design model for the brain than God? Well then, you should be able, without great difficulty, to design, build, and bring to life a new and improved simple cell. Just for a warm-up, of course. Can you fabricate a cell that has its own mitochondrial power supply, Golgi complexes, ribosomes, and centromeres? Will your cell be able to protect itself, propel itself, heal itself, and communicate with billions of other cells under the master control of the brain?
No, Dr. Linden, you and all of the combined intellects of
all scientists in the world can't even make a single cell,
and yet you presume to tell us that undirected lifeless
matter created this miraculous supercomputer you refer to
as a "kludge."
There were three buildings in the main quadrangle, but
there were 15 on campus when I got there in October 1946 as
a freshman ["Bon
Voyage, Miss Minnie," September]. There were the
Homewood House, the dormitory, the Faculty Club, Levering
Hall (where Miss Minnie worked), the two engineering
buildings, the power house, the gymnasium, two ROTC
buildings behind the gym, and a high pressure laboratory in
the old gate house. In addition, the Peabody Institute was
on the Homewood grounds and the new Aeronautical
Engineering building was in the woods behind the campus in
Wyman Park. There are many more now, but the Homewood
campus was a real entity in 1946.
Solomon Golomb's column
Oddities" [September] is
fun and interesting, as usual. However, I think there is an
underlying error. The author assumes that the applicable
period for determining periods of repetition of dates is
400 years. He then concludes that because 400 is not evenly
divisible by 7, dates do not fall across the calendar
equally. However, if a longer period of time is used, say
2,800 years, then we have a number that is evenly divisible
by 7 and by 400 — so in the long run, the probability
that Christmas falls on a Wednesday is in fact one-seventh.
I think that the same logic will demonstrate that the 13th
is, in the long run, equally likely to fall on any day of
In "20 Questions: China Edition" [June], you address the possibility of China becoming more democratic. I make no claim to being an expert, but as someone married to a Chinese woman for eight years, and having had the opportunity to travel there, it seems to me that the chances of China becoming more democratic in our lifetimes are very slim. Respect and deferral to authority are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, and stem from Confucius.
My impression is that, although most Chinese would like
more say in politics, the vast majority are not willing to
take any personal risk to effect it; they're much more
likely to take action if the government would take steps to
hinder their personal prosperity. In the West, we very
often make a mistake thinking that foreigners think the
same as we do, and that everyone must want to live in a
"free" and "democratic" society. For most people in the
People's Republic, this is a very low priority; I think
many of them see the fact that there is a separate Chinese
government in Taiwan as a much more pressing issue.
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