Author Archives: meredithf

The Last Days of Hitler: Epilogue

It is interesting how Trevor-Roper concludes his book. It was interesting how he acknowledges that despite all the facts that he includes in his book, he recognizes that there are so many myths surrounding the death of Hitler. He recognizes that while he tried to ensure that he was telling the truth, there is possibility that part of the myths are included in his work. I think he is also saying that we will never know the truth about many things because controversial topics are always full of myths created by conspirators and the media.

I also found it interesting that throughout the book, it seems as though he is implying that it was not only Hitler that was the cause of the Holocaust and the many other atrocities of World War II, but it was also his court that influenced Hitler and was also responsible for their own actions. However, in the epilogue of the book he mentions that “Speer is the real criminal of Nazi Germany.” I found it interesting that throughout the book, he takes the blame off of Hitler as the only person involved and puts in on his court as a whole when we usually think that Hitler is the only one to blame, but then in the end, he blames a single person again, Speer.

“An Open Letter…” by Rebecca Kumar

After reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and discussing it in class I still continue to grapple with why it was chosen as the One Book and what exactly are the ethical issues of the book. Ethical issues such as taking the cells and not receiving compensation have been discussed but it was concluded that there was nothing ethically wrong with either. It was interesting to see how Rebecca Kumar believes the book itself and the author are some of the main ethical issues.

Kumar first questions Skloot’s claim that this is a non-fictional book. Kumar questions how Skloot could possibly know the private actions and conversations of both Henrietta’s family and her doctors. There is also the possibility that Deborah and the rest of the Lacks family either lied or did not remember all about Henrietta’s story. I agree with Kumar that Skloot should have acknowledged these possibilities of error in her writing, whether they were her own fault or the fault of the people she interviewed. I also found it interesting how Kumar criticized Skloot’s motives for writing the book. She mentions how schools pay an exorbitant price to have Skloot come speak and she is making thousands off the book, while the Lacks family only receives education funds through the Henrietta Lacks Foundation.

I think Kumar took it a bit to the extreme when discussing Skloot’s writing style as racist. I understand where she was coming from in the sense that Skloot portrays herself as this white hero that is saving the black community. However, I don’t think Skloot is racist because of the word choices that she uses to more accurately represent the Lacks family. I think it is an important part of showing her audience, who is ignorant of the way many people live, the lives of the members of the Lacks family.

C-suite Conversation with Anne Lynn Goddard

Last week I attended a C-suite conversation with Anne Lynn Goddard, the president of Child Fund. She works to introduce new facilities and amenities for children around the world. As president she was asked to create a new strategy for the company. She believed it would be best to create a concrete structure and goals for each age group. She has worked to provide medical services for children under five and fresh water and education for school age children.

I found it very interesting when she discussed that although her efforts focus mostly on global poverty, she has also helped communities in the United States. She realizes that American poverty is no less important than global poverty. Anne also strongly believes in grassroots development. Just before she came to speak at Richmond, she was surveying the progress of projects in Indonesia. She is a wonderful role model for many leaders because she does not just lead from the top, she gets down at the ground level and truly understands the needs of the people she is trying to help.

She also discussed the issue of rebranding. When she was asked to be president of Child Fund, she also had to deal with the issue of developing a new name and brand for the foundation. She worked on making herself more transparent by instituting monthly tea times where she discusses the success of the company with her employees. I found Anne Goddard to be a very inspiring leader because of the way she has lead the foundation and her strong beliefs to start at the grassroots to make a difference in the world.

Do societies really “choose” to fail?

In chapter 15, Diamond discusses the relationship between the environment and big businesses. He mentions that neither can live without the other. Businesses supply capital to maintain the environment and continue to develop environmentally friendly technology. Also, the environment supplies businesses with raw materials that they need to develop their products. Diamond discusses how Chevron has been so successful because they were about to build a healthy relationship between the environmental side and business side of the company. Chevron is a for profit oil company that enforces environmentally friendly procedures. He explains that a for profit business spends money to remain ecofriendly to prepare and avoid environmental disasters that could cost billions of dollars to clean up.

Diamond concludes his book discussing the many different types of problems that are occurring in the world today. Some on the list are destroying natural habitats, erosion, freshwater is being used for irrigation and transportation, and the growing population’s impact on the environment. Over the past few weeks of reading this book, I have continually been bothered by the title, “Collapse How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” I am especially bothered by Diamond’s use of the word “choose.” I don’t think that there is any community in the world, past or present, that chooses to fail. Also, from Diamond’s list of problems, it is clear that humans cannot always choose these. While they may be able to prevent some forms of erosion, it is a natural occurrence that can’t always be prevented. While the population is growing, no one can just expect people to stop reproducing because it will better the environment. Also, it is not just one item on this list that causes extreme problems. In many cases, it is a collection of problems that has led to the failure of a society. A society would never simply choose to fail, failure happens because it is out of the control of the society.

Hedy Lamar

Last week, I attended a speech by Richard Rhodes about Hedy Lamar, the most beautiful woman in the world. Richard Rhodes is an incredibly successful author. His has written 24 books about a wide range of topics. While Hedy Lamar was known as the best pin-up of the war, she was so much more than just a pretty face.

Hedy grew up in a wealthy family and from a young age decided that she wanted to be a movie star. While she was educated to be a debutant, her father explained to her how different things worked. Her interest in the way things worked sparked her to invent small practical accessories in between shooting for movies. For example, she invented a box that attached to a tissue box for dirty tissues. She teamed up with famous pianist George Antheil to try to synchronize 16 player pianos. She then worked to use radio controls to direct torpedoes through frequency hopping. While at first, this technology was ignored by the navy, it has since been used in the Cuban Missile Crisis, carphones, and GPS.

Hedy’s story contains many life lessons. First, her life displays the importance of childhood and the effects it has later on in people’s lives. Her father took the time to teach her about how things worked and it had a dramatic influence on her life. She also displayed persistence and hard work. On a boat ride, she convinced a director to cast her in a film and would not give up until she convinced him. Most importantly, she believed that she was so much more than just a pretty face and wanted to be remembered for the things she did not just her beauty. She was bitter that she did not receive recognition at first for her incredible invention. She wanted to show the world that she was more than just a beautiful actress and in the end she did. These lessons from Hedy can be applied to today. We need to remember the importance of people and the incredible things they have done for society, not just their beauty.

Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz is a famous author from the Dominican Republic. One of his most well known works is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Throughout his works, his characters continue to desire change. However, they fear how to execute it. They fear how to change the silences in culture that no one discusses, such as sexism and racism.

Junot Diaz read an excerpt from his book and discussed how his life has affected his writings. He read about a couple who was suppose to travel to the Dominican Republic. However, the man cheated on his girlfriend. Despite this, they still went because they thought a vacation might be able to solve their problems. While planning the trip, the man wants to explore the shanty towns of the Dominican Republic, while the woman would rather be pampered in a resort. Ultimately, the woman wins and they stay in a resort. It is clear who wears the pants in this relationship. Junot Diaz is trying to portray to the man that  you can’t be human without recognizing the humanity of women. He believes the only way to do that is to relinquish one’s masculinity.

It was interesting to hear how Junot Diaz’s background and past experiences affected his life. For example, he lived in New Jersey for a long time and is rather critical of it. He mentioned that he is critical of it because it loves it. He questions that if you don’t see anything wrong with something, then it is untrustworthy. It is important to see both the benefits and the flaws. Also, he used phrases and words in his writings that might not make sense to an outsider completely. However, in his subculture where he grew up, they were used heavily and influenced his life.

He left the audience with a thought: sometimes the things we are good at, we find very difficult, but it is important to stick with them because we enjoy them.

The collapse of advanced societies

Last year I went to a presentation by Professor Medina Elizalde who spoke about the collapse of the Mayans. He had numerous hypotheses as to the reason for the collapse, such as war, demographic problems, famine, illness and foreign conflicts. He realized that the actual reason for the collapse was because of climate change. He used stalactites through the process of re-precipitation to measure the amount of rainfall. He thought at first that it was a super drought that may have lasted up to over 100 years. He later realized though that it was a series of droughts about 18 months long at a span that caused the collapse of the society. Professor Medina Elizalde’s interest in the collapse of the Mayans reminded me of how passionate Jared Diamond is about the collapses of many societies.

Like them, I am also interested in the collapse of many societies. I want to go to Machu Pichu and see the Incan ruins. While I am not a history buff, I have always been interested in the ruins of different societies. It always amazes me how such advanced societies for their time could end in a mysterious collapse.

I think it is interesting how intrigued we are about a society’s failure. Is it because it is reassuring that we are much more advanced than they are and it won’t happen to us? Do we like it because some of the most advanced societies of their time have fallen and it makes them seem less superior? Are we trying to learn something from their failure?

The Scientific Method

I have learned about the scientific method since grade school. I have used it to conduct different scientific experiments. However, I’ve only seen the scientific method in one form and have never really questioned it. Anderson’s article questions the scientific method that I learned and shows that there is no set scientific method. He first states the theory of logical empiricism. It argues that “no number of empirical tests can ever guarantee the truth of universal statements.” It only believe in “gradually increasing confirmation.” The logical empiricism method begins with questions from experiences. On the other hand, the falsificationism theory begins when an experience conflicts with an existing theory. I found the different methods of determining scientific questions very interesting. I never thought about how I arrived at questions about which to conduct scientific experiments.


Also, I found the marketing of science extremely interesting. In my other class, we discussed the importance of culture and how different cultures have different ideas about groups of people and traditions. Different cultures respond to different groups of people in different ways . This same idea is expressed in the idea that different social groups respond to scientific theories in different ways. Anderson mentions that the class interests, social acceptability of the results, presentation, and social cost of the theory can all influence the response of the public. I think that it implies that scientists should conduct their experiments and present their findings in certain ways to convince different social groups of their results. If the people do not believe their results, then nothing will change.

Fallacious Reasoning

I found the reading about fallacious reasoning to be very interesting because it had made me now question everything I hear. After reading these chapters, I now feel the need to question what doctors tell me and what politicians promise to do. Not only that, but I now do not trust everything that people in the news state.

I found the section on inconsistency to be very interesting. I feel that it is acceptable for politicians to be inconsistent with their words and people expect politicians to be hypocritical sometimes. That goes along with the appeal to authorities that we believe people of authority simply because we believe they have more knowledge than us in a specific area of study. Politicians change their views throughout the campaign to gain public support, then once elected, they can do something that is completely contradictory to what they stated during the campaign. Yet, the people still support them. Despite all of the inconsistencies and contradictory statements Obama made and committed while campaigning for his first term, he was still elected for a second term. Obama is not the only politician who has made inconsistent remarks. I think all successful politicians know how to wisely make inconsistent remarks to win over the people’s opinion.

I think that we should not be so accepting the the fallacious reasonings that politicians and many other authorities make. I think that during the debates, while there are fact checkers, there should also be people that check the statements to make sure they do not contradict a previous statement said. I hope that more of the public will catch on to the inconsistent remarks of politicians and question them.