Gleanings from the Past #92


Etymology of Peebles

Dr. Dalgleish, minister of Peebles, in giving a statistical account of that parish for Sir John Sinclair’s immense compilation, simply stated, that the place must have derived its name from the pebbles which are found there in great quantity. The more elaborate antiquary George Chalmers, by a tolerable pun for a man of his stamp, remarks in his ‘Caledonia,’ that the worthy clergyman of Peebles, in seeking for the etymology of the word is content to look no further than to the
stones beneath his feet!

— Robert Chambers, Scottish Jests and Anecdotes, 1880


I force myself to write this diary, but my reluctance is exquisite. I know now why I never kept a personal diary: for me life is secretive. With respect to others (and that is what pained X. so much) but also, life must be lived through my own eyes, I must not reveal it in words. Unheard and unexposed, like this it is rich for me. If I force myself to keep a personal diary at this moment, it is out of panic in the face of my failing memory. But I am not sure I can continue. Besides, even so, I forget to note many things. And I say nothing of what I think.

— Albert Camus, Notebooks 1951-1959 (trans. by Ryan Bloom, 2008 ed.), 1989

Mails and E-mails

A great deal of the work of the post office would then be to regulate the use of these personal television channels. Much of the information now sent by mail could be sent through the air on the personal channel, to be viewed in the home or to be printed out for a more or less permanent record.


Very likely there will be a signal light to indicate that a message is waiting to be viewed. When the personal channel is then activated, each item stored will be displayed in turn. Each can be scanned and erased, scanned and temporarily returned to storage, or scanned and printed out, after which the next item would appear. It will be very much like going through one’s mail today, with its mixture of personal items and advertising, in which some are discarded, some put aside, and some filed.

— Isaac Asimov, New York Times, January 7, 1973

The worst thing about e-mail is that you can’t interrupt the other person. You have to read the whole thing and then e-mail them back, pointing out all their mistakes and faulty assumptions. It’s frustrating and it’s time-consuming. God bless phone calls.

— George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?, 2004


Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997

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My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is

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