284 Articles


1 month Ago

Definitions of Diplomacy

Published by marco on

I recently saw two definitions of diplomacy that I liked very much. I’ve included them below with the original attributions and have made no effort to ascertain their accuracy. I think the quotes stand on their own, regardless of who is purported to have said them.

“Diplomacy is the art of building ladders to allow people to climb down gracefully.”
Otto von Bismarck
“Diplomacy is the art of telling someone to go to hell in such a manner that they look forward to the trip.”


Published by marco on

“Maybe the greatest miracle is memory”
Brian Doyle

Found in the article Two Poems by Michael Garrigan (ecotheoreview). Both are quite nice. I had to look up Thomas Merton.


A surfeit of unearned confidence

Published by marco on

“You suffer from the arrogance of ignorance.”
The Man in the High Castle


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“Yours is like all fortunes, Shadow: opaque on arrival, inevitable in retrospect.”
Wednesday (American Gods S01E01)

Soft tyranny

Published by marco on

Life in the 21st century is all about the soft tyranny of lowered expectations.

By all means

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“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

Whether Napoleon actually said it or not is immaterial.


2 months Ago


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“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”
From Mencken Chrestomathy by H.L. Mencken in January 1925 (Quote Investigator)

The linked article above includes a related quote:

“That seems to be the haunting fear of mankind — that the advancement of women will sometime, someway, someplace, interfere with some man’s comfort.”
Nellie L. McClung in 1915

6 months Ago

Focused laser-like on the present

Published by marco on

“The most significant characteristic of modern civilization is the sacrifice of the future for the present, and all the power of science has been prostituted to this purpose.”
William James

Shit Rolls Downhill as Public Policy

Published by marco on

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.[1]

[1] I can’t help but think that current U.S. President Donald J. Trump is only too aware of this stratagem—because it’s working for him like for nearly no other before him. People are not only emptying their pockets but are nearly sacrificing themselves on the altar of his reputation.

Rising above the muck isn’t even that hard

Published by marco on

“[in America] the general average of intelligence, of knowledge, of competence, of integrity, of self-respect, of honor is so low that any man who knows his trade, does not fear ghosts, has read fifty good books, and practices the common decencies stands out as brilliantly as a wart on a bald head.”

We’ve known for a long time

Published by marco on

The post Two centuries and nothing has changed referred to the image below,

 Marx on Nature and Human Beings

It’s nicely put together, but it’s also not the original quote, which someone included in the comments in a giant wall of text from an English translation.

I found the original in German:

“Die kapitalistische Produktion entwickelt daher nur die Technik und Kombination des gesellschaftlichen Produktionsprozesses, indem sie zugleich die Springquellen alles Reichtums untergräbt: die Erde und den Arbeiter.”

The... [More]

7 months Ago

Learning from History

Published by marco on

The original quote is shown below.

“Was die Erfahrung aber und die Geschichte lehren, ist dieses, dass Völker und Regierungen niemals etwas aus der Geschichte gelernt und nach Lehren, die aus derselben zu ziehen gewesen wären, gehandelt haben.”

The following is my best attempt at a direct translation, which I hope imparts just how balky the original is.

“But what experience and history have taught, is that society and governments never learn anything from history and acted on lessons from which... [More]”

The sunken cost of being conned

Published by marco on

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

9 months Ago

Eco on Writing

Published by marco on

“Writing is a way of revealing the contradictions of life that one would like to resolve. Writing fiction, like poetry, means simply to display those contradictions but not necessarily to resolve them. In fact, the reader, through his interpretive cooperation, decides what the story means.”

1 year Ago

Beats Thinkin’

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“There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labour of thinking.”
Sir Joshua Reynolds


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“Fanaticism consists of redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.”
George Santayana

If Wishes were Mutexes

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Text Editing Hates You Too (

“Although holding a lock across process boundaries may sound questionable to you, most other platforms try to use imperfect heuristics to fix concurrency issues. Or they just hope race conditions don’t happen. In my experience, prayers are not a very effective concurrency primitive.

Going along to get along

Published by marco on

“[…] getting along in society includes some recognition of not being the worst person you can be even though you have a right to do so.”

On successfully navigating tricky grammatical seas

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“When I look at people that I would like to feel have been a mentor or an inspiring kind of archetype of what I’d love to see my career eventually be mentioned as a footnote for in the same paragraph, it would be, like, Bowie.”
Mark Liberman on November 3, 2005 (Language Log)

Institutionalized Poverty

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“The cause of poverty is not that we’re unable to satisfy the needs of the poor, it’s that we’re unable to satisfy the greed of the rich.”

Incuriosity Killed the Human

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“You barely have to stir or incommode yourself to find things out. The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriosity is the oddest… most foolish failing there is,”

MVP is a lie

Published by marco on

“Written by people with either no time or no money, most software gets shipped the moment it works well enough to let someone go home and see their family. What we get is mostly terrible.”

On Tripping Alone

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“Did the lights just change? Yeah? Good. I don’t mind if that happens. I just want it to happen for everyone.”
Greg Proops


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“Circus dogs jump when the trainer cracks his whip, but the really well-trained dog is the one that turns his somersault when there is no whip.”
George Orwell

Film as a way of seeing into the past

Published by marco on

“It’s as if the movie satisfied an impossible yet basic human desire to see what our parents were like before we were born and to see what they did that affected what we became—not to hear about it, or to read about it, as we can in novels, but actually to see it.”
writing about Godfather II by Pauline Kael

A lunar metaphor for corruption

Published by marco on

“He was a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. Like rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks”
said about Edward Livingstone by John Randolph

Unknown Unknowns in Computing

Published by marco on

“A distributed system is one in which the failure of a computer you didn’t even know existed can render your own computer unusable.”

2 years Ago

No Sense of Humor

Published by marco on

“God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”

Words to live by

Published by marco on

“To make your passing easier on loved ones, why not be an asshole your whole life?”

Capitalism’s Achilles Heel

Published by marco on

“I think we’ve found the weakness of capitalism: it believes its own grandiose bullshit.”