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