Monday, November 30, 2020


Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition.  Man is the only being who knows he is alone.

-- Octavio Paz Lozano (1914 - 1998), poet, writer, diplomat, and winner of the 1990 Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Mexican writer to become a Nobel Laureate, The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)

Friday, November 27, 2020


Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency.  Man is a social being.  Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism.  His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.

-- Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, 21 March 1929, p. 93

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

Yesterday and today I made 6 pies -- 2 apple pies, 3 pumpkin pies, and a sweet potato pie.  Those pies are going to the households of my 5 adult daughters.  This morning we Zoomed, and I got to see my 11 grandchildren.

I've got all the fixings ready for 3 or 4 more pies, but I ran out of pie pans.  I'll have to get some back before I can bake myself a pie.

Plenty to be thankful for.  I hope you can say the same.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

For What I Am & Have

I am grateful for what I am & have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.  It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite -- only a sense of existence.  Well, anything for variety.  I am ready to try this for the next 1000 years, & exhaust it.  How sweet to think of!  My extremities well charred, and my intellectual part too, so that there is no danger of worm or rot for a long while.  My breath is sweet to me.  O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.  No run on my bank can drain it -- for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.

-- Henry David Thoreau (1817 - 1862), American essayist, poet, and philosopher, Letter to Harrison Gray Otis Blake (6&7 December 1856), as published in The Correspondence of Henry David Thoreau (1958), p. 444

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Please Wear A Mask

In the last week (604,800 seconds), through this morning at midnight, the United States saw 1,221,179 new covid cases.  For a little perspective, that's 2.02 positive cases *per second* for a week.

Over the same period, there was a covid death in the United States every 55.90 seconds.

Last Friday 20 November, there were 204,580 new cases and 1968 new deaths.  That works out to 2.4 new cases per second over a 24-hour period, with a death every 44 seconds.  On Saturday, it was 1 death every 42 seconds.

Please wear a mask around others.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Arecibo Going Dark

After more than a half-century of supporting breakthrough scientific work -- and providing a scenic backdrop for Contact, GoldenEye and other blockbuster Hollywood films -- the iconic Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico is going dark.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the observatory, announced on November 19 that it will begin the process of planning for "controlled decommissioning" of the 305-meter telescope.  Over the past several months the instrument has suffered two catastrophic failures of cables that support its 900-ton (817-metric-ton) central receiving platform.

"This decision is intended to preserve life and safety of people and prevent the loss of the entire Arecibo Observatory, including the visitor education center, in the event of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse," said Sean Jones, assistant director of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the NSF, during a press conference.  "This decision is not an easy one for NSF to make. But safety of people is our number-one priority."

-- Leonard David, Arecibo Observatory to Close Its Giant Eye on the Sky, Scientific American, 20 November 2020

Friday, November 20, 2020

Undemocratic Action

Having failed to make even a plausible case of widespread fraud or conspiracy before any court of law, the President has now resorted to overt pressure on state and local officials to subvert the will of the people and overturn the election.  It is difficult to imagine a worse, more undemocratic action by a sitting American President.

-- Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), tweeting as @MittRomney, 19 November 2020

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Most Fabulous

I am the most fabulous whiner.  I do whine because I want to win.  And I'm not happy if I'm not winning.  And I am a whiner.  And I'm a whiner and I keep whining and whining until I win.  And I'm going to win for the country and I'm going to make our country great again.

-- Donald Trump, in a CNN "New Day" interview with Chris Cuomo, as quoted by Colin Campbell in "Donald Trump: 'I am the most fabulous whiner'", Business Insider, 11 August 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.

-- Blaise Pascal (1623 - 1662), French mathematician, logician, physicist and theologian, De l'Art de persuader ["On the Art of Persuasion"] (1658)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Great Potential Cost

Moral bankruptcy: the state a person reaches when he trades away or violates too many of his core moral values and commitments.  He may also lose important relationships either as a cause or consequence of his loss of moral commitments.  Someone who is morally bankrupt may or may not recognize that he has reached this state. 

Some people may never recognize they have reached the point of moral bankruptcy.  Denial, the first cousin of rationalization, functions to maintain a person's perception of reality.  Denial helps a person to maintain a fiction in the cold light of fact.  Denial is a perversely remarkable creative ability that carries a great potential cost. 

-- Peg O'Connor, Ph.D., professor of philosophy and gender, women, and sexuality studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN, Declaring Moral Bankruptcy, Psychology Today, 31 October 2014

Monday, November 16, 2020

Boulder Pushers

We spend our lives fighting to get people very slightly more stupid than ourselves to accept truths that the great men have always known.  They have known for thousands of years that to lock a sick person into solitary confinement makes him worse.  They have known for thousands of years that a poor man who is frightened of his landlord and of the police is a slave.  They have known it.  We know it.  But do the great enlightened mass of the British people know it?  No.  It is our task, Ella, yours and mine, to tell them.  Because the great men are too great to be bothered.  They are already discovering how to colonise Venus and to irrigate the moon.  That is what is important for our time.  You and I are the boulder-pushers.  All our lives, you and I, we'll put all our energies, all our talents into pushing a great boulder up a mountain.  The boulder is the truth that the great men know by instinct, and the mountain is the stupidity of mankind.

-- Doris Lessing (1919 - 2013), British writer, born Doris May Tayler.  In October 2007 Lessing became the eleventh woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in its 106-year history, and its oldest recipient ever.  Paul Tanner, in "Free Women: 1", The Golden Notebook (1962)

Friday, November 13, 2020

A Way To Cede Power

I don't know what the calculation is that goes on in the mind of the leaders about what to take to the floor, but we don't vote on a lot of legislation.  If the Senate refuses to tackle the major issues, then the president will and he'll just issue executive orders.  Just saying "No" doesn't enhance our power.  It's a way to cede power.

-- Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), as quoted by David Brooks in How Biden Could Steer a Divided Government, New York Times, 12 November 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A Promised Land

What I can say for certain is that I'm not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America -- not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind.  I'm convinced that the pandemic we're currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can't help but collide.  In that world -- of global supply chains, instantaneous capital transfers, social media, transnational terrorist networks, climate change, mass migration, and ever-increasing complexity -- we will learn to live together, cooperate with one another, and recognize the dignity of others, or we will perish.  And so the world watches America -- the only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice -- to see if our experiment in democracy can work.  To see if we can do what no other nation has ever done.  To see if we can actually live up to the meaning of our creed.

-- Barack Obama, in his new memoir A Promised Land, as excerpted in The Atlantic, November 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Not Our Job

I think it's hard for you to argue that Congress intended the entire act to fall if the mandate were struck down when the same Congress that lowered the penalty to zero did not even try to repeal the rest of the act.

I think, frankly, that they wanted the court to do that.  But that's not our job.

-- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, addressing Texas Solicitor General Kyle Hawkins, in California v Texas, which seeks an end to the Affordable Care Act, NPR, 10 November 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Take Morality Seriously

Aristotle wrote that good habits formed at youth make all the difference.  And moral education must affirm the central importance of moral example.  It has been said that there is nothing more influential, more determinant, in a child's life than the moral power of quiet example.  For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously.  And with their own eyes they must see adults take morality seriously.

-- William Bennett in "Book of Virtues" (1993) pg 11, as quoted by John Dickerson on Twitter, 8 November 2020

Monday, November 09, 2020

Prayers For His Success

I just talked to the President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.  I extended my warm congratulations and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night.  I also called Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency.  Though we have political differences, I know Joe Biden to be a good man, who has won his opportunity to lead and unify our country.  The President-elect reiterated that while he ran as a Democrat, he will govern for all Americans.  I offered him the same thing I offered Presidents Trump and Obama: my prayers for his success, and my pledge to help in any way I can.

I want to congratulate President Trump and his supporters on a hard-fought campaign. He earned the votes of more than 70 million Americans - an extraordinary political achievement.  They have spoken, and their voices will continue to be heard through elected Republicans at every level of government.  

The challenges that face our country will demand the best of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris - and the best of us all.   We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future. There is no problem that will not yield to the gathered will of a free people. 

-- Statement by President George W. Bush, congratulating President-elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, 8 November 2020

Friday, November 06, 2020

Illusion Of A Horse Race

The fact that ballots are counted sequentially lends the process of vote counting important transparency.  But it can also lead us to apply inappropriate mental frames.  For instance, we may resort to horse-race language that suggests that Biden is pulling ahead at the last second, but in fact these votes were all cast on or before Election Day.  The illusion of a dramatic horse race is simply a product of the order in which we count votes.

-- Dan Hopkins, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, on the FiveThirtyEight 2020 Election Live Blog, 6 November 2020 at 10:16 AM

Thursday, November 05, 2020

The Vote Is Sacred

In America, the vote is sacred.  It's how people of this nation express their will.  And, it is the will of the voters, no one, not anything else, that chooses the president of the United States of America.  So, each ballot must be counted, and that's what we're going to see going through now, and that's how it should be.

Democracy is sometimes messy.  It sometimes requires a little patience as well.  But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that's been the envy of the world. 

So, I ask everyone to stay calm, all people to stay calm.  The process is working.  The count is being completed, and we'll know very soon.  So, thank you all, for your patience. We have to count the votes.

-- Remarks by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in Wilmington, DE, 5 November 2020

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Count Von Count

Greetings it is I the Count!  They call me the Count because I love to count things!!  HA HA HA!!!

-- Count von Count, on Sesame Street

Monday, November 02, 2020

Consent Of Governors And Governed

Metaphysicians and politicians may dispute forever, but they will never find any other moral principle or foundation of rule or obedience, than the consent of governors and governed.

-- John Adams (1735 - 1826), American lawyer, author, statesman, and diplomat, second President of the United States (1797-1801), and first Vice President (1789-1797), Novanglus essays (1774-1775), No. 7