Monday, December 22, 2014


In the ancient days when gods played their own games, and had their own celebrations, tossing lightning bolts between mountaintops, hurling great boulders -- Festivus came out of that.  It's a holiday that celebrates being alive at a time when it was hard to be alive.

There was no Christ yet, no Yahweh, no Buddha.  There were great ruins and raw nature.  But there was a kindling spark of hope among men.  They celebrated that great thunderous storms hadn't enveloped them in the past year, that landslides hadn't destroyed them.  They made wishes that their crops would grow in the fields, that they'd have food the next year and the wild animals wouldn't attack and eat them.

There's something pure about Festivus, something primal, raw in the hearts of humans.

-- Jerry Stiller (1927-), American comedian and actor, foreword to Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us (2005) by Allen Salkin

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Gift Suggestions

Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.

-- Oren Arnold (1900-1980), American novelist, journalist, and humorist

Thursday, December 18, 2014

True Nobility

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.

-- Ernest Hemingway (1889-1961), American author and journalist, For Whom The Bell Tolls (1940)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

History Will Judge Us

History will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say "never again".

-- Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), after the release of a Senate report condemning C.I.A. interrogations, New York Times, 10 December 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I would do it again in a minute.

-- Former Vice President Dick Cheney, defending his advocacy of interrogation techniques that a Senate report last week condemned as inhumane and ineffective, NY Times, 15 December 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014


Imagine if we didn't go down that road.  Imagine.  We played into the enemy's hand.  Now we have American hostages in orange jumpsuits because we put people in orange jumpsuits.

-- Ali H. Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent who clashed with the C.I.A. over its interrogation tactics, New York Times, 11 December 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014


If there is no solution to the problem then don't waste time worrying about it.  If there is a solution to the problem then don't waste time worrying about it.

-- Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama (1935-), born Lhamo Dhondrub, renamed Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (Holy Lord, Gentle Glory, Compassionate, Defender of the Faith, Ocean of Wisdom) upon being officially recognized as the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Congrats to Ray Ozzie for his success and his inclusion on this list.  But the article ...  Perhaps the most blindly uninformed and reductionist view of PLATO ever expressed in print:

UIUC: Amazing Tech Visionaries Who Went To School There
Business Insider - 1 December 2014

Ray Ozzie -- Lotus Notes

Ozzie was a computer science student at UIUC when he started working on PLATO system, which later evolved into Lotus Notes, one of the earliest enterprise collaboration software tools.  Lotus was later sold to IBM for $3.5 billion.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

News Is A Business

Indeed.  News is a business, and it is, by and large, an advertising business.  In other words, the viewer isn't the customer, the advertiser is.  And the predominate marketing strategy for the news business for the last several decades has been to scream at us "WATCH OUR PROGRAM OR YOU WILL DIE!!!  AND YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE EATEN BY DINGOS AND SOMEONE WILL KICK YOUR DOG!!!!"

-- Comment on an article about media coverage in Ferguson, MO, by taustin on Slashdot, 3 December 2014 @12:13PM

Monday, December 08, 2014

Young Men Have A Passion

Young men have a passion for regarding their elders as senile.

-- Henry Brooke Adams (1838-198), US historian, journalist, and educator, The Education of Henry Adams (1907), Chapter XI The Battle of the Rams

Friday, December 05, 2014

32-Bit Overflow

The Korean pop star PSY's viral music video "Gangnam Style" has reached the limit of YouTube's view counter.  According to YouTube's Google+ account,

"We never thought a video would be watched in numbers greater than a 32-bit integer (=2,147,483,647 views), but that was before we met PSY.  'Gangnam Style' has been viewed so many times we had to upgrade to a 64-bit integer (9,223,372,036,854,775,808)!"

-- From Slashdot, 3 December 2014

I think wrote about this once before.  As of this morning, the 4 minute 13 second Gangnam Style video had been viewed 2,158,281,339 times.  This adds up to 6,288,349 days, or 17,216 years total viewing time.  Since this morning, it's been watched another 1,548,865 times, racking up another 12.4 years of viewing.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Stick To The Facts

Give It To Them Straight.  You've probably heard your professors tell you over and over again, "stick to the facts".  And they're right: there's no better way to make your point and win your argument.  And even those who disagree with your conclusion will respect you for being honest and having the guts to tell it like it is.

-- Michael Bloomberg (1942-), former New York City mayor, Tufts University commencement address (2007)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.

-- Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), American novelist and satirist, Mother Night, Introduction (1961)

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Business Plan

This appears to be the business plan.  It appears to be, you do whatever you have to do, and you know that eventually you will pay fines, but you will pay the fines and still make a lot more.

-- Eric G. Campbell, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, on conflicts of interest between doctors and the drug industry, New York Times, 28 November 2014

Monday, December 01, 2014

World AIDS Day

The AIDS crisis is evidence of a world in which nothing important is regional, local, limited; in which everything that can circulate does, and every problem is, or is destined to become, worldwide.

-- Susan Sontag (1933-2004), American essayist, literary critic, cultural theorist, and political activist, AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989), p. 180.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Divide Themselves Into Winners And Losers

The classic device for legitimating the unequal distribution of rewards in a democratic society is, of course, competition in which the same rules are applied to all the contestants and the status system of the society is protected by the nature of the rules rather than by their inequitable application.  The people in the society thus learn to divide themselves into winners and losers and to blame themselves for being among the losers if they are.

-- Edgar Z. Friedenberg (1927-2000), American social critic and scholar of education, R. D. Laing, p. 96.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Paving The Way

In summary, the state of Illinois made a constitutionally protected promise to its employees concerning their pension benefits.  Under established and uncontroverted Illinois law, the state of Illinois cannot break this promise.

-- Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz, ruling that Illinois' 2013 pension reform law is unconstitutional, opening the way for an appeal to the state Supreme Court, 21 November 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Asymptotically Closer

The truth may be puzzling.  It may take some work to grapple with.  It may be counterintuitive.  It may contradict deeply held prejudices.  It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true.  But our preferences do not determine what's true.  We have a method, and that method helps us to reach not absolute truth, only asymptotic approaches to the truth -- never there, just closer and closer, always finding vast new oceans of undiscovered possibilities.  Cleverly designed experiments are the key.

-- Carl Sagan (1934-1996), American astronomer and popular science writer, "Wonder and Skepticism", Skeptical Inquirer 19 (1), January-February 1995

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


However much men may honestly endeavour to limit the exercise of their discretion by definite rule, there must always be room for idiosyncracy; and idiosyncracy, as the word expresses, varies with the man.  But there is, besides this, that of which every student of legal history must be aware, the leaning of the Courts for a certain time in a particular direction, balanced at least, if not reversed, by the leaning of the Courts for a certain time in a direction opposite.  The current of legal decision runs often to a point which is felt to be beyond the bounds of sound and sane control, and there is danger sometimes that the retrocession of the current should become itself extreme.

-- John Coleridge, 1st Baron Coleridge (1820-1894), British lawyer, judge, and politician, Reg. v. Labouchere (1884), 15 Cox, C. C. 425

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Just As Soon Be A Rattlesnake

About belief or lack of belief in an afterlife: Some of you may know that I am neither Christian nor Jewish nor Buddhist, nor a conventionally religious person of any sort.  I am a humanist, which means, in part, that I have tried to behave decently without any expectation of rewards or punishments after I'm dead.  My German-American ancestors, the earliest of whom settled in our Middle West about the time of our Civil War, called themselves "Freethinkers," which is the same sort of thing.  My great grandfather Clemens Vonnegut wrote, for example, "If what Jesus said was good, what can it matter whether he was God or not?" I myself have written, "If it weren't for the message of mercy and pity in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, I wouldn't want to be a human being.  I would just as soon be a rattlesnake."

-- Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), American novelist, God Bless You Dr. Kevorkian (1999)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Slave Of Prior Commitments

We seem to have a remarkable capacity to find arguments that support positions which we antecedently hold.  Reason is, to a great extent, the slave of prior commitments.

-- Robert McKim, University of Illinois professor of philosophy, Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity (Oxford, 2001), page ix

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Please Name Three

 I have a very simple question to people ... who seem to suffer from excessive narcissism: please name three other persons who are smarter and more capable than you, in the field you work in.  (In most cases they are utterly unable to answer that question honestly.)

-- Ingo Molnar, Hungarian Linux kernel hacker, in a comment at (2011)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Big In Liverpool

We thought we'd be really big in Liverpool.

-- Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE (18 June 1942-), English singer-songwriter and composer, on the Beatles' early expectations of their success, 2007 interview with Larry King

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Feature Rich

Mature software is almost always vastly less buggy than newer, feature rich software.  In any cycle of improvement the less buggy software is replaced with more feature rich software.

-- Jeffrey Bolden on Slashdot, 9 November 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Broadcast News

[T]he time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do.  To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act -- while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.  This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone -- not just one or two companies. ...

The Internet has been one of the greatest gifts our economy -- and our society -- has ever known.  The FCC was chartered to promote competition, innovation, and investment in our networks.  In service of that mission, there is no higher calling than protecting an open, accessible, and free Internet.

-- President Barack Obama, calling on the FCC to re-classify IPSs as "Broadcast Services", 10 November 2014

Friday, November 07, 2014

First Priority

The first priority of humankind in this era is to establish an effective system of world law that will assure peace with justice among the peoples of the world.

-- Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (1916-2009), American broadcast journalist, UN Address (1999)

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Ultraviolet Spectroscopy

The wavelength necessary to effect the pi -> pi* transition in a conjugated molecule depends on the energy gap between HOMO and LUMO, which in turn depends on the nature of the conjugated system.  Thus, by measuring the UV spectrum of an unknown, we can derive structural information about the nature of any conjugated pi electron system present in a molecule.

-- John McMurry, Organic Chemistry 8th ed. (2012), Ch. 14, Conjugated Compounds and Ultraviolet Spectroscopy

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

One Finds A Way

It's on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way. So we must dig and delve unceasingly.

-- Claude Monet (1840-1926), French painter, founder of French Impressionism, letter to Frederic Bazille from Honfleur, 15 July 1864, as cited in: Joyce Medina (1995) Cezanne and Modernism: The Poetics of Painting, p. 60

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Second Thought

I consider biennial elections as a security that the sober, second thought of the people shall be law.

-- Fisher Ames (1758-1808), Massachusetts Congressman, speech on Biennial Elections before the Convention of Massachusetts (January 1788), reported in Seth Ames, John Thornton Kirkland, Works of Fisher Ames with a Selection from His Speeches and Correspondence (1854) p. 7

Monday, November 03, 2014

Eating The Mice

The country is now run by a few families, or clans, close to Putin.  They used to focus on the very biggest businesses: oil, gas, big infrastructure projects, the banks.  But now that they have eaten all the food in that cupboard, they are eating the mice, and the mice's food, going after smaller and smaller markets.

-- Anonymous Russian publisher, whose textbooks have been removed from schools, replaced by those from a publisher close to Vladimir Putin, New York Times, 1 November 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Connect The Dots

You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.  So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.  You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.  This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

-- Steven Paul Jobs (1955-2011), founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple, Inc., Stanford University commencement address (12 June 2005)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sit On A Pumpkin

I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

-- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862), American author, naturalist, transcendentalist, tax resister, development critic, and philosopher, Walden Pond, p 24

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Antarctic Ice Melt Rate

We use 3 years of Cryosat-2 radar altimeter data to develop the first comprehensive assessment of Antarctic ice sheet elevation change.  This new data set provides near-continuous (96%) coverage of the entire continent, extending to within 215 km of the South Pole and leading to a fivefold increase in the sampling of coastal regions where the vast majority of all ice losses occur.  Between 2010 and 2013, West Antarctica, East Antarctica, and the Antarctic Peninsula changed in mass by -134 +/- 27, -3 +/- 36, and -23 +/- 18 Gt/yr, respectively.

-- McMillan, et al, "Increased ice losses from Antarctica detected by CryoSat-2", Geophysical Research Letters Volume 41, Issue 11, pages 3899-3905, 16 June 2014

The rate totals to 159 +/-48 Gt (gigatonnes) per year.  There are 60*60*24*365 = 31536000 seconds per year.  At the low end, the melt rate is 111,000,000,000 tonnes / 31,536,000 seconds = 3519 tonnes per second, and at the high end 207,000,000,000 / 31,536,000 = 6563 tonnes per second.  My brain can't properly imagine 35 tonnes of ice melt every 0.01 seconds.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

For The Sake Of Another

Today, local economies are being destroyed by the "pluralistic," displaced, global economy, which has no respect for what works in a locality.  The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be exploited, even destroyed, for the sake of another place.

-- Wendell Berry (1934-), American philosopher, poet, farmer, and social activist, Interview in New Perspectives Quarterly (1992), quoted in his profile at The Poetry Foundation

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Groundless Pain

Whatever causes no annoyance when it is present, causes only a groundless pain in the expectation.  Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.  It is nothing, then, either to the living or to the dead, for with the living it is not and the dead exist no longer.

-- Epicurus (341 BC - 270 BC), Greek philosopher, "Letter to Menoeceus", as translated in "Stoic and Epicurean" (1910) by Robert Drew Hicks, p. 169

Friday, October 24, 2014

Find Us Working

La inspiracion existe, pero tiene que encontrarte trabajando.  Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.

-- Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 - 8 April 1973), Spanish artist, quoted in Tomas R. Villasante (1994) Las ciudades hablan: identidades y movimientos sociales en seis metropolis latinoamericanas, p. 264

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Discussion Vs. Argument

Discussion is an exchange of knowledge; argument an exchange of ignorance.

-- Verni Robert Quillen (1887-1948), American journalist and humorist, as quoted in The School Day Begins: A Guide to Opening Exercises, Grades Kindergarten - 12 (1967) by Agnes Krarup

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Least I Can Do

I happen to have a talent for allocating capital.  But my ability to use that talent is completely dependent on the society I was born into.  If I'd been born into a tribe of hunters, this talent of mine would be pretty worthless.  I can't run very fast.  I'm not particularly strong.  I'd probably end up as some wild animal's dinner.

But I was lucky enough to be born in a time and place where society values my talent, and gave me a good education to develop that talent, and set up the laws and the financial system to let me do what I love doing -- and make a lot of money doing it.  The least I can do is help pay for all that.

-- Warren Edward Buffett (30 August 1930-), American investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, spoken to Barack Obama, as quoted in The Audacity Of Hope, Chapter 5 (2006)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pretty Good

Whenever you're going through a bad day just remember, your track record for getting through bad days, so far, is 100%; and that's pretty damn good.

-- Attributed to "My amazing friend (via pain-is-temporary-keep-fighting)",

Monday, October 20, 2014

Really Stop

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself, "I have lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along." ...  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

-- Eleanor Roosevelt (1894-1962), social activist, wife of US President Franklin Roosevelt, You Learn By Living p. 29-30 (1960)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Never Too Old

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.

-- C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) Irish novelist, scholar

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Congratulations, Larry F. Weber

Congratulations to PLATO's Larry Weber, who today was inducted into the Illinois Engineering Hall of Fame in a ceremony on campus.  From the program:

Visionary whose research contributed to the plasma display panel technology, its lower power consumption and higher contrast ratio; Business leader at Panasonic whose worldwide advocacy resulted in plasma TV commercialization; Founded Plasmaco

More detail at:

In addition to Larry Weber, there were 5 other inductees this year, including Max Levchin and Luke Nosek, co-founders of PayPal, and definitely the youngest.  Past inductees include Ray Ozzie (2011), Eric Bina, Don Bitzer, John Bardeen, Marc Andreessen, Shahid Khan, Nick Holonyak (2010)

Larry appears to be happy, healthy, and energetic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Easiest Thing In The World

To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world.  If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral down into ever-increasing unhappiness.  To think good thoughts, however, requires effort.  This is one of the things that discipline -- training -- is about.

-- James Clavell (1924-1994), British novelist, screenwriter, World War II hero and POW, Shogun, Chapter 5 (1975)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hallucinating Mob

TV in America created the most coherent reality distortion field that I've ever seen.  Therein is the problem: People who vote watch TV, and they are hallucinating like a sonofabitch.  Basically, what we have in this country is government by hallucinating mob.

-- John Perry Barlow (1947-) American poet, essayist, and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Interviewed in "John Perry Barlow 2.0" by Brian Doherty at ReasonOnline (August 2004)

Monday, October 13, 2014

An Annoying Place

The world is an annoying place.  Things change in undesirable ways, and other things refuse to change despite our best efforts.

-- Don Appleman, 13 October 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Grasping The Reality

But we ought to remember that religion uses language in quite a different way from science.  The language of religion is more closely related to the language of poetry than to the language of science. ...  The fact that religions through the ages have spoken in images, parables, and paradoxes means simply that there are no other ways of grasping the reality to which they refer.  But that does not mean that it is not a genuine reality.

-- Niels Henrik David Bohr (1885-1962), Jewish Danish physicist, 1922 Nobel physics laureate, remarks after the Solvay Conference (1927)

Thursday, October 09, 2014

With The Speed Of A Jet Plane

Germs have always traveled.  The problem now is they can travel with the
speed of a jet plane.

-- Howard Markel, a professor of the history of medicine at the University of Michigan, on the spread of Ebola beyond West Africa, New York Times, 9 October 2014

Wednesday, October 08, 2014


She came up to me, crying, and said, "I think we can get married today."

-- Erika Turner, on her partner, Jennifer Melsop; they became the first same-sex couple to marry in Arlington County, VA, after a Supreme Court decision Monday, New York Times, 7 October 2014