Friday, March 29, 2019

Unable To Say A Word

Lemony Snicket: (narrating) When someone is a little bit wrong -- say, when a waiter puts nonfat milk in your espresso macchiato, instead of lowfat milk -- it is often quite easy to explain to them how and why they are wrong.  But if someone is surpassingly wrong -- say, when a waiter bites your nose instead of taking your order -- you can often be so surprised that you are unable to say anything at all.  Paralyzed by how wrong the waiter is, your mouth would hang slightly open and your eyes would blink over and over, but you would be unable to say a word.

-- Lemony Snicket, pen name of American novelist Daniel Handler (1970 -), from A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book the Second: The Reptile Room (1999)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

A Giant In Your Neighborhood

It's kind of like living with a giant in your neighborhood.  You know it's there.  You know it could cause you problems, but you live in an uneasy compromise.

-- Joyce Corradi, who still lives in the home she was evacuated from 40 years ago today, March 28, 1979, when Three Mile Island's Unit 2 reactor suffered a partial meltdown after a pump stopped sending water to the steam generators that removed heat from the reactor core, NPR, 28 March 2019

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Alice All The Time

When I go onstage as Alice to this day, I play Alice to the hilt -- I play him for everything he is worth, but when I'm offstage, I never think about Alice Cooper.  He never occurs to me. ... I walk off stage though and I turn away from the audience, I go back to being me again.  Whenever I see an audience, that's when I turn into Alice.  If there was no audience there, there would be no reason to be Alice. ... If I tried to be Alice Cooper all the time -- I'd either be in an insane asylum or in jail or dead.  Alice is just too intense, and you just can't be Alice all the time.

-- Alice Cooper (4 February 1948 -), American rock and roll musician; born Vincent Damon Furnier, in "Kerby's Exclusive Interview with Metal Icon Alice Cooper" at (22 September 2005)

Monday, March 25, 2019

No Collusion

[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.

-- Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his report to Attorney General William Barr, as quoted by Barr in his summary of the Mueller Report for Congress, 24 March 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019


I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters.

-- US Attorney General William P. Barr, in a letter to Congress providing notice of the end of the Mueller investigation, 22 March 2019

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Consider this: A parody account pretending to be an imaginary cow owned by Representative Devin Nunes, the California Republican, is more popular on Twitter than the congressman, a day after he sued the account (and Twitter) for $250 million.

This is how politics and humor now play out in the strange world of social media.

The parody account @DevinCow had only 1,204 followers on Monday, but it ended Wednesday afternoon with 467,000 [now 610K], surpassing Mr. Nunes's account with its 395,000 followers.

-- Laura M. Holson, "After Devin Nunes Sues @DevinCow, the Twitter Parody Gains a Half-Million Followers", New York Times, 20 March 2019

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Meows Loudly

I've ended up calling my cat Brexit.  It wakes me up meowing like crazy every morning because it wants to go out, but as soon as I open the door, it just sits there undecided and then looks angry when I put it outside.

-- France's EU minister, Nathalie Loiseau, joking in an interview with Journal du Dimanche, 17 March 2019

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


He is a terrorist.  He is a criminal.  He is an extremist.  But he will, when I speak, be nameless.  And to others, I implore you, speak the names of those who were lost, rather than the name of the man who took them.  He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name.

-- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in an address to Parliament after the slaying of 50 in an attack on 2 mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, New York Times, 19 March 2019

Monday, March 18, 2019

Shining City

I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it.  But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.  And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

-- President Ronald Reagan, in his farewell address to the nation, 11 January 1989

Friday, March 15, 2019

Just Not Happening

I believe that many, including many in the press, have done the country a disservice by creating the impression that when he gets done,  Mueller is going to write this scathing, lengthy report detailing what an asshole the president is, even if he's not a criminal.  If my thesis about Mueller is right, then that's just not happening.

-- Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute think tank who was a senior counsel on the Whitewater investigation, The Atlantic, 12 March 2019

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hereby Terminated

Begun and held at the City of Washington on Thursday, 
the third day of January, two thousand and nineteen

Joint Resolution

Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, pursuant to section 202 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622), the national emergency declared by the finding of the President on February 15, 2019, in Proclamation 9844 (84 Fed. Reg. 4949) is hereby terminated.

-- Text of the joint resolution of Congress that passed the Senate today by a vote of 59 to 41, and which already passed the House by a vote of 245 to 182, 14 March 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Changed For The Better

And while the web has created opportunity, given marginalised groups a voice, and made our daily lives easier, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.

Against the backdrop of news stories about how the web is misused, it's understandable that many people feel afraid and unsure if the web is really a force for good.  But given how much the web has changed in the past 30 years, it would be defeatist and unimaginative to assume that the web as we know it can't be changed for the better in the next 30.  If we give up on building a better web now, then the web will not have failed us. We will have failed the web.

-- Tim Berners-Lee, in an open letter about his vision for the future of the Internet, on the 30th anniversary of the Internet,, 12 March 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

So We Camped Here

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- French musher Nicolas Petit looked like he was in solid control of the world's most famous sled dog race and about to erase a year of doubts and second-guessing after a last minute misstep cost him the 2017 title.

Then the dogs quit on him Monday morning.

A dog named Joey had been fighting with another dog on the team and jumped it during a break as the team was making its way to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race checkpoint of Koyuk on the Bering Sea coast.

"I yelled at Joey, and everybody heard the yelling, and that doesn't happen," Petit told the Iditarod Insider website. "And then they wouldn't go anymore.  Anywhere.  So we camped here."

-- Mark Thiessen for Associated Press, 11 March 2019

Monday, March 11, 2019

Paradise Is Obtainable

In a world populated by people who believe that through more and more information, paradise is attainable, the computer scientist is king.  But I maintain that all of this is a monumental and dangerous waste of human talent and energy.  Imagine what might be accomplished if this talent and energy were turned to philosophy, to theology, to the arts, to imaginative literature or to education?  Who knows what we could learn from such people -- perhaps why there are wars, and hunger, and homelessness and mental illness and anger.

-- Neil Postman (1931 - 2003), prominent American educator, media theorist, and cultural critic, associated with New York University for more than forty years, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985)

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Our Lies Reveal

Our lies reveal as much about us as our truths.

-- John Maxwell Coetzee (1940 -), South African-born writer and academic, 2003 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Slow Man (2004)

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Not Perceptible

The people who have sufficient passion for the truth to give the truth a chance to prevail, if it runs counter to their bias, are in a minority.  How important is this "minority?"  It is difficult to say at this point, for, at the present time their influence on governmental decisions is not perceptible.

-- Leo Szilard (1898 - 1964). Hungarian-American physicist, and probably the first scientist to take seriously the idea of actually developing atomic bombs; he drafted the famous letter sent by Albert Einstein to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that was largely responsible for initiating the Manhattan Project to develop nuclear weapons during World War II, "Are We on the Road to War?" Speech at Harvard Law School (17 November 1961)

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Last Words

Shit, I'm not going to see the Mueller report, am I?

-- Last words of Mitchell Tendler, as reported by his family in "Elderly Trump Critics Await Mueller's Report -- Sometimes Until Their Last Breath", NPR, 5 March 2019

Monday, March 04, 2019

Brute Force

When in doubt, use brute force.

-- Ken Thompson (1943 -), computer scientist and winner, with Dennis Ritchie, of the 1983 Turing Award, Reflections on Trusting Trust, Communications of the ACM 27 (8), August 1984, pp. 761-763

Friday, March 01, 2019

I Am Bothered

I don't like the nonsense that passes for rational discourse so often in our society.  I am very much bothered by the inaccuracies, ambiguities, code words, slogans, catch phrases, public relation devices, sweeping generalizations, and stereotypes, which are used (consciously or otherwise) to influence people.

I am bothered by the way misinformation, disguised as scholarship, is used in social, political, and educational contexts to affect policy decisions.

I am bothered by the way misinformation is accepted uncritically, and by the way people are unable to recognize it or reject it.

-- Serge Lang (1927 - 2005), French-born American mathematician, The File: Case Study in Correction (1977-1979)