Gleanings From the Past #86

Circumstances We are strange beings, we seem to go free, but we go in chains — chains of training, custom, convention, association, environment—in a word. Circumstance — and against these bonds the strongest of us struggle in vain. — Mark Twain, “3,000 Years Among the Microbes”, 1905 A man is worked upon by what he works on. He […]

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Gleanings from the Past #85

Consonants and Vowels In normal speech there are four times as many consonants as vowels, corresponding to the relation between breathing and blood circulation (eighteen breaths to seventy-two pulsebeats). — Noah Jonathan Jacobs, Naming Day in Eden: The Creation and Recreation of Language, 1958 Natural Vanity Lord Houghton’s vanity is amusingly natural. Something was said […]

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Gleanings from the Past #84

Legally Speaking Dear Ned, Soon after I received my Acme pencil (11 cents), it rolled off the desk and on to the floor. Upon retrieving it, I hit my head on the desk. Can I hold Acme responsible? Boiling Mad Dear Boiling, This is what’s known as an open-and-shut case. If you don’t sue them, […]

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Gleanings from the Past #82

Wasted Time I wasted time, and now doth time waste me; For now hath time made me his numbering clock: My thoughts are minutes; and with sighs they jar Their watches on unto mine eyes, the outward watch, Whereto my finger, like a dial’s point, Is pointing still, in cleansing them from tears. Now sir, […]

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Gleanings from the Past #81

Crimes in Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle There is one fact in connection with Holmes which will probably interest those who have followed his career from the beginning, and to which, so far as I am aware, attention has never been drawn. In dealing with criminal subjects one’s natural endeavour is to keep the crime […]

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Gleanings from the Past #80

Cynicism and Horror Only a cynic can create horror — for behind every masterpiece of the sort must reside a driving demonic force that despises the human race and its illusions, and longs to pull them to pieces and mock them. — H. P. Lovecraft, letter to Edward Baird dated c. October 1923, quoted in […]

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Gleanings from the Past #79

Understanding Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy ready-made things in the shops. But since there are no shops where you can buy friends, men no longer have any friends. ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince, 1943 What Is a Mirror? Then the cow asked: “What is a mirror?” “It is […]

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Gleanings from the Past #77

Ignorance Isaac Asimov Imagine the people who believe such things and who are not ashamed to ignore, totally, all the patient findings of thinking minds through all the centuries since the Bible was written. And it is these ignorant people, the most uneducated, the most unimaginative, the most unthinking among us, who would make themselves […]

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Gleanings from the Past #76

A Little Irony People who didn’t need people need people around to know that they were the kind of people who didn’t need people. — Terry Pratchett, Maskerade, 1995 The Typewriter The type-writer came Wednesday night, and is already beginning to have its effect on me. Of course it doesn’t work: if I can persuade […]

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Gleanings from the Past #75

Coining New Words Carl Sagan Physicists had to invent words and phrases for concepts far removed from everyday experience. It was their fashion to avoid pure neologisms and instead to evoke, even if feebly, some analogous commonplace. The alternative was to name discoveries and equations after one another. This they did also. But if you […]

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