Friday, December 19, 2014

What Do You Care What Other People Think?

For some people, it would be instructive to know what others think of them, because they think too much of themselves; for another set of people, because they think too little of themselves.

(For my sort of people, knowing what others think would likely paralyze us into absolute inaction.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Parting Words of the Sage

The following quote is from an fantasy novel written in the late nineteenth century by William Morris, an author who inspired both J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. This is something that I hope to be able to say at the end of my life to the people that I love.

William Morris, The Well at the World's End:

Here then is the end of my journey with you;
and ye wot all that I can tell you,
and I can say no word more save to bid you
cast all fear aside and thrive.
ye wot = you know

Monday, December 15, 2014

Automaton (1999)

This is the sort of doggerel that results from a cold evening curled up in a comfy throw, with a cup of tea and an artificial intelligence textbook.

The very best and brightest minds
    With care they study our behavior
Searching out each taste and whim
    Eager, plotting every flavor

Uncovering what makes us tick
    The minute gears that rub and grind
Inching ever closer to
    Idealized, artificial minds

Intelligent, to serve our needs
    Mass-produced, because we can
Machine, now soul, created by
    The hand of soulless man

Thursday, December 11, 2014


Max Barry, Company:

[Her] main job is to transform routine tasks into urgent ones by concealing their existence until the last possible moment.

There seem to be a lot of these people around.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Cage

Our modern lives bring to mind a pacing tiger in a cage:  Potential power—and beauty—in carefully proscribed movement, going nowhere. But we hold the key to the cage. What would happen if we decided not to live our lives in captivity?

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Secret to Long Life

Should I reach advanced age, I feel that it is my principal duty to, when asked the secret of my longevity, attribute it to my worst habit.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

All Things to All Men

Jacques Ellul, The Ethics of Freedom:

Modern protestants are in the main prepared to be all things to all men, like St. Paul, but unfortunately this is not in order that they may save some but in order that they may be like all men.

In the inspired words of Terry Scott Taylor, from Dr. Edward Daniel Taylor's Miracle Faith Prickly Heat Telethon of Love:

And now here they are, the all Christian female mud-wrestling missionaries, Prickly Heat International's own Sister Sludge and the Mudhoneys, to perform interpretative mud-wrestling accompanied by a Prickly University Racially Integrated Singers and Orchestras, to perform one of the great hymns of the faith, Big Guns.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Natural Environs of the Useless

There's no place like
to hide a

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A Word To The Wise

Piet Hein, Grooks:

Let the world pass in its time-ridden race;
   never get caught in its snare.
Remember, the only acceptable case
for being in any particular place
   is having no business there.

Monday, December 01, 2014


Loneliness is at its most intense in crowded places.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

On Learning

Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition:

In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learnéd usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

So many people behave as if learning ought to be confined to a carefully circumscribed period of life, including many highly-credentialed and otherwise intelligent people. This has always seemed very odd to me (except perhaps during finals).

Saturday, November 29, 2014


Our operating policy
   (borne out in practice too):
Never use a whole ass
   when half-an-ass will do.

Dedicated to artificial deadlines and the automatic responses they engender in project managers.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Good Day

Rosemary Sutcliff, Sword at Sunset:

The day that followed was a good day; one of those days that do not greatly matter in the pattern of things, but linger, comely-shaped and clear-colored in the memory when the days of splendor and disaster have become confused.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Apologies to Canada

If a loonie will buy
you a peek at her thigh,
   That's a whore, eh?

And that's as far as I'll take that.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

An Untimely End

Eventually he expired, slowly poisoned by the daily ingestion of a toxic polymer, unknowingly caused by his too vigorous scraping of yogurt from its plastic container.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I'll Title This In a Bit

There are few worlds more magical–or more mythical–than a procrastinator's Later.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Night Bedtime (1998)

This is something that I wrote about my boys back in 1998, when John was two years old and Matthew was one. It's hard to believe they were ever that little.

I hear the sound of gentle snoring
    From the bedroom down the hall
And see the shapes of little fingers
    Casting shadows on the wall

Blankets cover little bodies
    Warm and sleeping in their beds
Preparing for adventures known
    To little dreams in little heads

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I wrote this some time ago, and was reminded of it when reading an excerpt from The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis:

When Thought contends that minds emerge
from random patterns in a surge
of neurons firing as they must, it
gives me then what cause to trust It?

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory:

If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on biochemistry, and biochemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of the atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any more significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Failure of Memory

Recalling what you once could do
   Can make you feel so old
Imagine just how young you'd feel
   If you only didn't know

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Observation: It is generally the busiest who do the least, and the least well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Certain Conviction

If I wanted to, I could;
   I am yet convinced of it.
Therefore I remain unchanged;
   Listless body, idle wit.

Inspired by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher:

Die sichere Überzeugung, daß man könnte, wenn man wollte, ist Ursache an manches guten Kopfes Untätigkeit, und das nicht ohne Grund.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

One Body, Many Parts

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.

He was the appendix. Of him, the best one could hope for was that the body was not too remote from civilization when he finally exploded.

Friday, November 07, 2014


To make a clever man believe
That you are different than you seem
   Is harder still than to assume
The form you wish him to perceive

I've been reading (very slowly) through Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's Sudelbücher, and came across the following aphorism, which I liked and—lacking the sense of a wiser man—decided to recast as a poem in English.

Kluge Leute glauben zu machen man sei, was man nicht ist, ist in den meisten Fällen schwerer als wirklich zu werden, was man scheinen will.