Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Very Beginning

Richard Feynman's ID photo during the Manhattan Project, from Los Alamos National LaboratoriesWe are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.

-- Richard Feynman (11 May 1918 - 15 February 1988), Nobel-prize winning American physicist and writer

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year

Grungold champagneAn optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.

-- Bill Vaughan (8 October 1915 - 25 February 1977), American columnist and author

Monday, December 29, 2008

How Different

Stephen CoveyHow different our lives are when we really know what is deeply important to us, and keeping that picture in mind, we manage ourselves each day to be and to do what really matters most.

-- Stephen Covey, American speaker, trainer, author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Giant Laozi in Wuxi Jiangsu ChinaKindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

-- Lao Tzu, philosopher (6th century B.C.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fragrance Always Clings

RoseA bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives the rose.

-- Chinese proverb

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Greatest Gift

Richard MossThe greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.

-- Richard Moss, physician, self-help author

Monday, December 15, 2008


Gift-wrapped packages
Presents, I often say, endear absents.

-- Charles Lamb, essayist (1775-1834)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Permanently Personal

Old booksDo give books -- religious or otherwise -- for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.

-- Lenore Hershey (1919-1997), editor and writer

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Too Busy

Busy deskWe are always too busy for our children; we never give them the time or interest they deserve. We lavish gifts upon them; but the most precious gift -- our personal association -- which means so much to them, we give grudgingly.

-- Mark Twain, pseudonym of Samuel Clemens (1835-1910), American writer and humorist

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Computer TapeDear Sir or Madam,

We are writing to let you know that computer tapes containing some of your personal information were lost while being transported to an off-site storage facility by our archive services vendor. While we have no reason to believe that this information has been accessed or used inappropriately, we deeply regret that this incident occurred and we wanted to explain the precautionary steps we have taken to help protect you. ...

Protecting the confidentiality of this information - and all of our clients' information - has long been a top priority at The Bank of New York Mellon. However, in late February 2008, our archive services vendor notified us that they could not account for one of several boxes of data backup tapes being transported to an off-site storage facility. The missing tapes held certain personal information, such as your name, address, Social Security number and/or shareowner account information. ...

Sincerely, Investor Care Response Team

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Valuable Thing

Illinois Governor Rod BlagojevichIf ... they're not going to offer anything of any value, then I might just take it. ... I'm going to keep this Senate option for me a real possibility, you know, and therefore I can drive a hard bargain. ... [The seat] is a [expletive] valuable thing, you just don't give it away for nothing.

-- Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, in wiretaps discussing the open senate seat of Barack Obama, according to a press release from US Attorney Peter Fitzgerald announcing Blagojevich's arrest, 9 December 2008

Monday, December 08, 2008


Kenneth E. BoudlingAnyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.

-- Kenneth Boulding (1910-1993), economist, educator, peace activist, and poet

Friday, December 05, 2008

Creative Art Is Magic

Joseph ConradAll creative art is magic, is evocation of the unseen in forms persuasive, enlightening, familiar and surprising, for the edification of mankind, pinned down by the conditions of its existence to the earnest consideration of the most insignificant tides of reality.

-- Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Polish-born English novelist

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Frank Zappa rehearsing with Ensemble Modern, Frankfurt am Main, September 1992Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.

-- Frank Zappa (21 December 1940 - 4 December 1993), American composer, guitarist, record producer, and film director

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Lest We Mock

Rudyard KiplingHe shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.
He shall peep and mutter, and night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King.

-- Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), author, Nobel laureate

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Recession chart from the New York TimesWe will rewrite the record book on length for this recession. It's still arguable whether it will set a new record on depth. I hope not, but we don't know.

-- Allen Sinai, president of Decision Economics in Lexington, MA, New York Times, 2 December 2008

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Terrifying

Joseph SobranThe prospect of a government that treats all its citizens as criminal suspects is more terrifying than any terrorist. And even more frightening is a citizenry that can accept the surrender of its freedoms as the price of "freedom".

-- Joseph Sobran (1946-), American journalist and writer

Friday, November 21, 2008

Greatest Of Virtues

Bust of CiceroGratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

-- Marcus Tullius Cicero (3 January 106 BC - 7 December 43 BC), Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and philosopher

Thursday, November 20, 2008


General Motors headquarters buildingWhat was good for the country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.

-- Charles Erwin Wilson, then-GM president, in Senate confirmation hearings to become President Eisenhower's Secretary of Defense, 1953

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Herbert AgarCivilization rests on a set of promises; if the promises are broken too often, the civilization dies, no matter how rich it may be, or how mechanically clever. Hope and faith depend on the promises; if hope and faith go, everything goes.

-- Herbert Agar, American author

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Keys To The Kingdom

Key to the city of Tokyo, JapanHe who is able to fix the public utilities holds the keys to the kingdom in terms of winning the support of the Iraqi people and ultimately ending this conflict.

-- Army Sgt. Alex J. Plitsas, on conditions in the Sadr City section of Baghdad, New York Times, 22 April 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stand Up

Cat standing on hind legsThis vote shows that the Iraqis have figured out how to stand up for themselves, to Iran and to the U.S.

-- Michael O'Hanlon, specialist in Iraq at the Brookings Institution, on the Iraqi cabinet's approval of a security agreement calling for a full withdrawal of American forces by the end of 2011, New York Times, 17 November 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Well-Laid Plan

Tim CavanaughA well-laid business plan is no guarantee against the disappearance of the industry on which it is based.

-- Tim Cavanaugh, American libertarian writer and editor, Reason Online, May 2003

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Grim ReaperPeople are grieving. There was a death. Their money died.

-- Barbara Goldsmith, semiretired psychotherapist in Delray Beach, Florida, New York Times, 13 November 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cure Every Ill

Advertisement for a cure-allCongress seems to want to cure every ill known to man except unconstitutional government and high taxes.

-- Charley Reese (1937-), American syndicated columnist

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Joseph SobranPoliticians never accuse you of "greed" for wanting other people's money -- only for wanting to keep your own money.

-- Joseph Sobran (1946-). American journalist and writer

Monday, November 10, 2008


Rosa Parks with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.Seen November 5 On a Handmade Sign in West Philly

Rosa had to sit so Martin could walk,
Martin had to walk so Barack could run,
Barack had to run so our children can fly.

-- Scott Paul, in The Washington Note blog

Friday, November 07, 2008

RIP Studs Terkel

Studs Terkel memoir book coverMy epitaph, I hope, will be, "Curiosity did not kill this cat."

-- Louis "Studs" Terkel (16 May 1912 - 31 October 2008), American author, historian, radio personality, and actor, 1999 National Public Radio interview

Thursday, November 06, 2008

RIP Michael Crichton

Michael Crichton on the cover of Time MagazineWe are all assumed, these days, to reside at one extreme of the opinion spectrum, or another. We are pro-abortion or anti-abortion. We are free traders or protectionist. We are pro-private sector or pro-big government. We are feminists or chauvinists. But in the real world, few of us hold these extreme views. There is instead a spectrum of opinion.

-- Dr. John Michael Crichton (23 October 1942 - 4 November 2008), American author, film & TV producer, "Mediasaurus: The decline of conventional media" - Speech at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. (7 April 1993)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama Victorious

Almost-final electoral map from CNN.comThis victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change.

-- President-elect Barack Obama, in his victory speech, 4 November 2008

Whatever our differences, we are fellow Americans. And please believe me when I say no association has ever meant more to me than that.

-- Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, concession speech, 4 November 2008

No matter how they cast their ballot, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday,

-- Out-going president George W. Bush, regarding Obama's victory, 5 November 2008


In Piatt County, IL where I live, McCain won with 4988 votes (55%) to Obama's 3856 votes (43%).

In Champaign County, IL where I work, Obama won with 48,351 votes (58%) to McCain's 33,748 votes (40%).

Of the 8 times that I have voted in a presidential election, this marks just the second time that the candidate I voted for has won. No wonder I'm a cynic about national politics.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Don't Have To Think

VoteThe whole reason we have elected officials is so we don't have to think all the time.

-- Homer Simpson

Thursday, October 30, 2008

People Might Remember

Eugene McCarthyIt is dangerous for a national candidate to say things that people might remember.

-- Eugene McCarthy (1916 - 2005) American politician, poet, and 22-year member of the US Congress (D-MN)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Politician Vs. Statesman

James Freeman Clarke, from UUA ArchivesA politician is a man who thinks of the next election; while the statesman thinks of the next generation.

-- James Freeman Clarke (1810-1888), preacher and author

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Guide Your Luck

Horseshoe on door for luckIt is a great piece of skill to know how to guide your luck, even while waiting for it.

-- Baltasar Gracian (1601 - 1658), Spanish Baroque prose writer

Monday, October 27, 2008

Informed Voters

Oregon voter pamphlet 2008I don't think anything will change until Americans revolt and get it into their heads that they need to be informed voters instead of just listening to the paid political ads.

-- Deborah Pryce, a United States representative from Ohio who is retiring, New York Times, 30 October 2007

Friday, October 24, 2008

Talk Sense

Adlai E. Stevenson II, March, 1953Let's talk sense to the American people. Let's tell them the truth, that there are no gains without pains, that we are now on the eve of great decisions, not easy decisions, like resistance when you're attacked, but a long, patient, costly struggle which alone can assure triumph over the great enemies of man -- war, poverty, and tyranny -- and the assaults upon human dignity which are the most grievous consequences of each.

-- Adlai Stevenson, acceptance speech, Democratic National Convention, Chicago, IL, 26 July 1952

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Victory, Not Truth

Shining Victory (title), from trailerLike a lawyer, the human brain wants victory, not truth; and, like a lawyer, it is sometimes more admirable for skill than virtue.

-- Robert Wright, author and journalist (b. 1957)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Barrel distortion... The problem with the U.S. economy, more than lack of regulation, has been government's failure to control systemic risks that government itself helped to create. We are not witnessing a crisis of the free market but a crisis of distorted markets.

-- Washington Post editorial, 20 October 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lahde Duh

Foreclosure Trend ChartToday I write not to gloat. Given the pain that nearly everyone is experiencing, that would be entirely inappropriate. Nor am I writing to make further predictions, as most of my forecasts in previous letters have unfolded or are in the process of unfolding. Instead, I am writing to say goodbye.

I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have reined in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it.

With that I say goodbye and good luck.

All the best,
Andrew Lahde

-- Andrew Lahde of Lahde Capital Management, farewell letter (abridged) on his retirement (age ~38) after his fund earned 866% return in 2007 betting on the collapse of the subprime mortgage industry, Financial Times, 17 October 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008


Colin PowellAs gifted as he is, he is essentially going to execute the Republican agenda, the orthodoxy of the Republican agenda, with a new face and a maverick approach to it, and he'd be quite good at it. But I think we need a generational change.

-- Colin L. Powell, discussing Senator John McCain, and endorsing Senator Barack Obama, New York Times, 20 October 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Defense Of Cheating

Cheating[O]ur current educational methods ... test by requiring students to prove that they can regurgitate the information presented in class without assistance from others .... But in real life, asking others for help is not only permitted, it is encouraged. Why not rethink the entire purpose of our examination system? We should be encouraging students to learn how to use all possible resources to come up with effective answers to important problems. Students should be encouraged to ask others for help, and they should also be taught to give full credit to those others. So, the purpose of this contribution to Ubiquity is to offer an alternative approach: to examine the origins of cheating, and by solving the root cause, to simultaneously reduce or eliminate cheating while enhancing learning.

-- Donald A. Norman, Professor of Computer Science, Northwestern University, Ubiquity, Volume 6, Issue 11, 29 September 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Duly Rise

Napoleon BonaparteSo long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will duly rise and make them miserable.

-- Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cinderella At The Ball

Cinderella's pumpkin carriageThe line separating investment and speculation, which is never bright and clear, becomes blurred still further when most market participants have recently enjoyed triumphs. Nothing sedates rationality like large doses of effortless money. After a heady experience of that kind, normally sensible people drift into behavior akin to that of Cinderella at the ball. They know that overstaying the festivities -- that is, continuing to speculate in companies that have gigantic valuations relative to the cash they are likely to generate in the future -- will eventually bring on pumpkins and mice. But they nevertheless hate to miss a single minute of what is one helluva party. Therefore, the giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There's a problem, though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands.

-- Warren Edward Buffett (30 August 1930-), American investor, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Berkshire Hathaway 2000 Chairman's Letter

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Plenty There

Alan Turing StatueWe can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

-- Alan Turing (23 June 1912 - 7 June 1954), British mathematician and cryptographer, Computing Machinery and Intelligence (1950)

Monday, October 13, 2008


Tom Hanks visits a hospital in 2004I'm glad I didn't have to fight in any war. I'm glad I didn't have to pick up a gun. I'm glad I didn't get killed or kill somebody. I hope my kids enjoy the same lack of manhood.

-- Tom Hanks

Friday, October 10, 2008

Market Boom

Explosion... [Yesterday's 7+%] declines [in the Dow and Standard & Poor's 500] came on the one-year anniversary of the closing highs of the Dow and the S&P. The Dow has lost 5,585 points, or 39.4 percent, since closing at 14,198 on Oct. 9, 2007. The S&P 500, meanwhile, is off 655 points, or 41.9 percent, since recording its high of 1,565.15.

U.S. stock market paper losses totaled $872 billion Thursday and the value of shares overall has tumbled a stunning $8.33 trillion since last year's high. That's based on preliminary figures measured by the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000 Composite Index, which tracks 5,000 U.S.-based companies' stocks and represents almost all stocks traded in America.


From Yahoo News

... and then there's today ....

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Artificial Boom

Ludwig von MisesTrue, governments can reduce the rate of interest in the short run. They can issue additional paper money. They can open the way to credit expansion by the banks. They can thus create an artificial boom and the appearance of prosperity. But such a boom is bound to collapse soon or late.

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) Austrian economist

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Knife Fight

Hoplite Fight, Athens MuseumAt the end of the day, campaigns are campaigns. In the last five days, it always comes down to a knife fight in a telephone booth.

-- Chris Lehane, Democratic political consultant, New York Times, 7 October 2008