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We can always hope...

Published Tuesday, April 30, 2013 @ 6:47 AM EDT
Apr 30 2013

A little hope, even hopeless hope, never hurt anybody.
-John Steinbeck

All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honor; duty; mercy; hope.
-Winston Churchill

As long as there is one upright man, as long as there is one compassionate woman, the contagion may spread and the scene is not desolate. Hope is the one thing left to us in a bad time.
-E.B. White

Beware how you take away hope from another human being.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

Change is one form of hope; to risk change is to believe in tomorrow.
-Linda Ellerbee

Courage is as often the outcome of despair as of hope; in the one case we have nothing to lose, in the other everything to gain.
-Diane de Poitiers

False hope is better than no hope at all.

Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear.
-Benedict Spinoza

Great hopes make great men.
-Thomas Fuller

Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper.
-Francis Bacon

Hope is a pleasant acquaintance, but an unsafe friend.
-Thomas Haliburton

Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out a certain way. Hope is the conviction that something makes sense, no matter what the outcome.
-Vaclav Havel

Hope is the denial of reality.
-Margaret Weis

Hope is the feeling you have that the feeling you have isn't permanent.
-Jean Kerr

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops- at all.
-Emily Dickinson

Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man.
-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Hope never abandons you; you abandon it.
-George Weinberg

I can endure my own Despair
But not another's Hope.
-William Walsh

I feel much better now that I've given up hope.
-Ashleigh Brilliant

I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive.
-Henry Miller

I suppose it can be truthfully said that Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity.
-Robert G. Ingersoll

In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.
-Charles Revson

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and He that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no Gains, without Pains.
-Benjamin Franklin

It is not the end of joy that makes old age so sad, but the end of hope.
-Jean Paul Richter

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
-Dale Carnegie

Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep.
-Harry Ruby

The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
-Joseph Addison

The miserable have no other medicine but only hope.
-William Shakespeare

There are no hopeless situations; there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.
-Clare Boothe Luce

There is hope, but not for us.
-Franz Kafka

We must accept finite disappointments, but we must never lose infinite hope.
-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation.
-Ivan Illich

Whether you believe or disbelieve, it is a wicked thing to take away Man's hope.
-Winston Churchill

You do not know what hope is, until you have lost it.
-T.S. Eliot

Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope.

Categories: Quotes on a topic

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Quotes of the day

Published Monday, April 29, 2013 @ 6:16 AM EDT
Apr 29 2013

John Kenneth Galbraith, OC (October 15, 1908 - April 29, 2006), was a Canadian economist, public official, and a leading proponent of 20th century American liberalism. He was a Keynesian and an institutionalist. His books on economic topics were bestsellers from the 1950s through the 2000s and he filled the role of public intellectual from the 1950s to the 1970s on matters of economics. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)

A businessman who reads Business Week is lost to fame. One who reads Proust is marked for greatness.

Agreeable as it is to know where one is proceeding, it is far more important to know where one has arrived.

All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.

All races have produced notable economists, with the exception of the Irish who doubtless can protest their devotion to higher arts.

All successful revolutions are the kicking in of a rotten door. The violence of a revolution is the violence of men who charge into a vacuum.

Among all the world's races, some obscure Bedouin tribes possibly apart, Americans are the most prone to misinformation. This is not the consequence of any special preference for mendacity, although at the higher levels of their public administration that tendency is impressive. It is rather that so much of what they themselves believe is wrong.

Clearly the most unfortunate people are those who must do the same thing over and over again, every minute, or perhaps twenty to the minute. They deserve the shortest hours and the highest pay.

Conscience is better served by a myth.

Do not be alarmed by simplification, complexity is often a device for claiming sophistication, or for evading simple truths.

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

Ideas are inherently conservative. They yield not to the attack of other ideas but to the massive onslaught of circumstance with which they cannot contend.

If all else fails immortality can always be assured by adequate error.

If inheritance qualifies one for office, intelligence cannot be a requirement.

If it is dangerous to suppose that government is always right, it will sooner or later be awkward for public administration if most people suppose that it is always wrong.

If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem; but if you owe it a million, it has.

In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.

In any great organization it is far, far safer to be wrong with the majority than to be right alone.

In economics, hope and faith coexist with great scientific pretension and also a deep desire for respectability.

In economics, the majority is always wrong.

In recent times no problem has been more puzzling to thoughtful people than why, in a troubled world, we make such poor use of our affluence.

In the United States, though power corrupts, the expectation of power paralyzes.

Income almost always flows along the same axis as power but in the opposite direction.

It can be laid down as a rule that those who speak most of liberty are least inclined to use it.

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than to put out on the troubled seas of thought.

It is my guiding confession that I believe the greatest error in economics is in seeing the economy as a stable, immutable structure.

Meetings are indispensable when you don't want to do anything.

Modesty is a vastly overrated virtue.

Money is a singular thing. It ranks with love as man's greatest source of joy. And with death as his greatest source of anxiety. Over all history it has oppressed nearly all people in one of two ways: either it has been abundant and very unreliable, or reliable and very scarce.

Much literary criticism comes from people for whom extreme specialization is a cover for either grave cerebral inadequacy or terminal laziness, the latter being a much cherished aspect of academic freedom.

Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.

Nothing is more portable than rich people and their money.

Of all classes the rich are the most noticed and the least studied.

One can relish the varied idiocy of human action during a panic to the full, for, while it is a time of great tragedy, nothing is being lost but money.

One of the greatest pieces of economic wisdom is to know what you do not know.

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.

People who are in a fortunate position always attribute virtue to what makes them so happy.

Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.

Power is as power does.

Private enterprise did not get us atomic energy.

Production only fills a void that it has itself created.

That one never need to look beyond the love of money for explanation of human behavior is one of the most jealously guarded simplifications of our culture.

The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor.

The contented and economically comfortable have a very discriminating view of government. Nobody is ever indignant about bailing out failed banks and failed savings and loans associations... But when taxes must be paid for the lower middle class and poor, the government assumes an aspect of wickedness.

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.

The enemy of the conventional wisdom is not ideas but the march of events.

The greater the wealth the thicker will be the dirt.

The happiest time of anyone's life is just after the first divorce.

The man who is admired for the ingenuity of his larceny is almost always rediscovering some earlier form of fraud. The basic forms are all known, have all been practiced. The manners of capitalism improve. The morals may not.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.

The more underdeveloped the country, the more overdeveloped the women.

The privileged have regularly invited their own destruction with their greed.

The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled.

The study of money, above all other fields in economics, is the one in which complexity is used to disguise truth or to evade truth, not to reveal it.

The threat to men of great dignity, privilege and pretense is not from the radicals they revile; it is from accepting their own myth. Exposure to reality remains the nemesis of the great- a little understood thing.

There are times in politics when you must be on the right side and lose.

There is certainly no absolute standard of beauty. That precisely is what makes its pursuit so interesting.

There is something wonderful in seeing a wrong-headed majority assailed by truth.

There is no literate population in the world that is poor, and there is no illiterate population that is anything but poor.

There is wonder and a certain wicked pleasure in these giddy ascents and terrible falls, especially as they happen to other people.

There's a certain part of the contented majority who love anybody who is worth a billion dollars.

Tragedy wonderfully reveals the nature of man.

We have two classes of forecasters: Those who don't know, and those who don't know they don't know.

Wealth is not without its advantages, and the case to the contrary, although it has often been made, has never proved widely persuasive.

Wealth, in even the most improbable cases, manages to convey the aspect of intelligence.

When the modern corporation acquires power over markets, power in the community, power over the state and power over belief, it is a political instrument, different in degree but not in kind from the state itself.

When you see reference to a new paradigm you should always, under all circumstances, take cover.

Where humor is concerned there are no standards- no one can say what is good or bad, although you can be sure that everyone will.

You roll back the stones, and you find slithering things. That is the world of Richard Nixon.

Categories: John Kenneth Galbraith, Quotes of the day

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"My life, my death, my choice."

Published Sunday, April 28, 2013 @ 8:51 AM EDT
Apr 28 2013

Sir Terry Pratchett (b. April 28, 1948):

A collection of Pratchett quotes is here. I suggest you come back and review them should you read and watch the material below.

Shaking Hands with Death
The Richard Dimbleby Lecture 2010

(YouTube video: "Shaking Hands with Death." )

Firstly I must express my gratitude and grateful thanks to the Dimbleby family for asking me to give this lecture today.

I cherish what I suspect is at least part of their reason for inviting me. I was a young newspaper journalist, still learning his trade, when Richard Dimbleby died of cancer in late December 1965. Two pieces of information shook the nation; one was that he had died and the other was that his family said that he had died of cancer. At that time it was the disease whose name was unspoken. People died of "a long illness" and as journalists we accepted and connived at this furtive terminology. However, we all knew what it meant, yet nobody used the forbidden word. But overnight, people were talking about this, and as a result it seemed to me the war on cancer began in earnest. Before you can kill the monster you have to say its name.

It was the distant echo of that example that prompted me to stand up two years ago and reveal that I had a form of Alzheimer's disease. I remembered the shameful despairing way cancer had been hidden in darkness. That and the Dimbleby family's decision to be open about Richard's death were at the soul and center of my own decision, which I made because of the sheer impossibility of not doing so. It was not a decision in fact. It was a determination and a reckoning.

My name is Terry Pratchett and I am the author of a very large number of inexplicably popular fantasy novels.

Contrary to popular belief, fantasy is not about making things up. The world is stuffed full of things. It is almost impossible to invent any more. No, the role of fantasy as defined by G.K. Chesterton is to take what is normal and everyday and usual and unregarded, and turn it around and show it to the audience from a different direction, so that they look at it once again with new eyes.

I intend tonight to talk about Alzheimer's disease, which I am glad to say is no longer in the twilight, but also about another once taboo subject, the nature of our relationship with death.

I have regrettably to point out that the nature my disease may or may not allow me to read all the way through this lecture. If this is the case, we have arranged for my friend, Tony Robinson, who made a very moving programme about his own mother's struggle with dementia, to step in and be your stunt Terry Pratchett for the evening.

I'm sure you know that, for my sins, which I wish I could remember because they must have been crimson, I am effectively "Mister Alzheimer's" and I have given more interviews on the subject than I can remember. But there are others, less well known, who have various forms of dementia and go out and about being ambassadors for the Alzheimer's Society in their fight against the wretched disease. It's not just me, by a long way. They are unsung heroes and I salute them.

When I was a young boy, playing on the floor of my grandmother's front room, I glanced up at the television and saw Death, talking to a knight and I didn't know very much about death at that point. It was the thing that happened to budgerigars and hamsters. But it was death, with a scythe and an amiable manner. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but I had just watched a clip from Bergman's Seventh Seal, wherein the Knight engages in protracted dialogue, and of course the famous chess game, with the Grim Reaper who, it seemed to me, did not seem so terribly grim.

The image has remained with me ever since and death as a character appeared in the very first of my Discworld novels. He has evolved in the series to be one of its most popular characters; implacable, because that is his job, he nevertheless appears to have some sneaking regard and compassion for a race of creatures which are to him as ephemeral as mayflies, but which nevertheless spend their brief lives making rules for the universe and counting the stars. He is, in short, a kindly death, cleaning up the mess that this life leaves, and opening the gate to the next one. Indeed, in some religions he is an angel.

People have written to me about him from convents, ecclesiastical palaces, funeral parlors and not least, hospices. The letters I've had from people all around the world have sometimes made me give up writing for the day and take a long walk. It is touching, and possibly worrying that people will write, with some difficulty, a six page letter to an author they had never met, and include in it sentiments that I very much doubt they would share with their doctor.

I have no clear recollection of the death of my grandparents, but my paternal grandfather died in the ambulance on the way to hospital after just having cooked and eaten his own dinner at the age of 96. (It turned out, when we found his birth certificate, that he was really 94, but he was proud of being 96, so I hope that no celestial being was kind enough to disillusion him.)

He had felt very odd, got a neighbor to ring for the doctor and stepped tidily into the ambulance and out of the world. He died on the way to the hospital- a good death if ever there was one. Except that according to my father, he did complain to the ambulance men that he hadn't had time to finish his pudding. I am not at all that sure about the truth of this, because my father had a finely tuned sense of humor which he was good enough to bequeath to me, presumably to make up for the weak bladder, the short stature and the male pattern baldness, which regrettably came with the package.

My father's own death was more protracted. He had a year's warning. It was pancreatic cancer. Technology kept him alive, at home and in a state of reasonable comfort and cheerfulness for that year, during which we had those conversations that you have with a dying parent. Perhaps it is when you truly get to know them, when you realise that it is now you marching towards the sound of the guns and you are ready to listen to the advice and reminiscences that life was too crowded for up to that point. He unloaded all the anecdotes that I had heard before, about his time in India during the war, and came up with a few more that I had never heard. As with so many men of his generation, his wartime service was never far from his recollection. Then, at one point, he suddenly looked up and said "I can feel the sun of India on my face," and his face did light up rather magically, brighter and happier than I had seen it at any time in the previous year and if there had been any justice or even narrative sensibility in the universe, he would have died there and then, shading his eyes from the sun of Karachi.

He did not.

On the day he was diagnosed my father told me, and I quote; "if you ever see me in a hospital bed, full of tubes and pipes and no good to anybody, tell them to switch me off."

In fact, it took something under a fortnight in the hospice for him to die as a kind of collateral damage in the war between his cancer and the morphine. And in that time he stopped being him and started becoming a corpse, all be it one that moved ever so slightly from time to time.

There wasn't much I could have done, and since the nurses in the Welsh hospice were fine big girls, perhaps that was just as well. I thank them now for the geriatric cat that was allowed to roam the wards and kept me and my mother company as we awaited the outcome. Feline though it was, and also slightly smelly, with a tendency to grumble, it was a touch of humanity in the long reaches of the night.

On the way back home after my father's death I scraped my Jag along a stone wall in Hay on Wye. To be fair, it's almost impossible not to scrape Jags along the walls in Hay on Wye even if your eyes aren't clouded with tears, but what I didn't know at the time, but what I strongly suspect now, was that also playing a part in that little accident was my own disease, subtly making its presence felt. Alzheimer's creeps up very gently over a long period of time, possibly decades, and Baby Boomers like myself, know that we are never going to die so always have an explanation ready for life's little hiccups. We say, "I've had a senior moment. Ha! Ha!" we say, "everybody loses their car keys," we say, "oh, I do that, too. I often go upstairs and forget what I have come up for!" we say, "I often forget someone's name mid-sentence" and thus we are complicit in one another's determination not to be mortal. We like to believe that if all of us are growing old, none of us are growing old.

I have touch typed since I was 13, but now that was going wrong. I got new spectacles. I bought a better keyboard, not such a bad idea since the old one was full of beard hairs and coffee, and finally at the end of self-delusion I went to see my GP. Slightly apologetically she gave me the standard Alzheimer's test, with such taxing questions as "what day of the week is it?" and then sent me off locally for a scan. The result? I didn't have Alzheimer's. My condition was simply wear and tear on the brain caused by the passage of time that "happens to everybody." Old age, in short. I thought, well, I've never been 59 before and so this must be how it is.

So off I went, reassured, about my business; I did a signing tour in Russia, a signing tour in the USA, which included breakfast at the White House, (there were lots of other people there, it wasn't as if I handed Mrs. Bush the corn flakes or anything) and then I did a signing tour in Italy, where the wife of our Ambassador very diplomatically pointed out that I had made a fist of buttoning up my shirt. Well, I had got up early for the flight, and had dressed in the dark, and so we all had a little chuckle, followed by lunch, and I hoped that everyone but me forgot about it.

Back home my typing was now so full of mistakes that it was simpler for me to dictate to my personal assistant. I went to see my GP again and she sent me to Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. I have never discussed the interview with her, but either by luck or prescience, I ended up in front of Dr. Peter Nestor, one of the few specialists in the country, or maybe the world, who would recognize Posterior Cortical Atrophy, the rare variant of my disease. He and his colleagues put me through a battery of tests, and he looked again at my scans, this time, importantly, in a different place. When he gave me the news that I had a rare form of Alzheimer's disease I quite genuinely saw him outlined in a rectangle of flaming red lines. We had a little bit of a discussion, and then, because the facility was closing for the day, I went home, passing another doctor putting on his bicycle clips- this was Cambridge, after all, and such was my state of mind that he too was outlined in red fire. The whole world had changed.

I was lucky in several ways. PCA is sufficiently different from 'classic' Alzheimer's that I have met fellow sufferers from it who dislike it being linked with that disease, even though the pathology and the endgame are ultimately the same. The journey, however, is different. PCA manifests itself through sight problems, and difficulty with topological tasks, such as buttoning up a shirt. I have the opposite of a superpower; sometimes, I cannot see what is there. I see the teacup with my eyes, but my brain refuses to send me the teacup message. It's very Zen. First there is no teacup and then, because I know there is a teacup, the teacup will appear the next time I look. I have little work-arounds to deal with this sort of thing- people with PCA live in a world of work-arounds. A glass revolving door is a potential Waterloo; I also have a workaround for that now, too. In short, if you did not know there was anything wrong with me, you would not know there is anything wrong with me. People who have spoken to me for half an hour or so ask me if I am sure I have the illness. Yes, it's certainly there, but cunning and subterfuge gets me through. So does money. The first draft of this speech was dictated using TalkingPoint on my computer which, while not perfect, produces a result that is marvellously better than anything I could tap out on the keyboard.

From the inside, the disease makes me believe that I am constantly being followed by an invisible moron who moves things, steals things, hides things that I had put down a second before and in general, sometimes causes me to yell with frustration. You see, the disease moves slowly, but you know it's there. Imagine that you're in a very, very slow motion car crash. Nothing much seems to be happening. There's an occasional little bang, a crunch, a screw pops out and spins across the dashboard as if we're in Apollo 13. But the radio is still playing, the heater is on and it doesn't seem all that bad, except for the certain knowledge that sooner or later you will be definitely going headfirst through the windscreen.

My first call when I got back from Cambridge was to my GP. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. In fact, it became clear that nothing at all was going to happen next unless we made it happen; there was no specialist anywhere local to me prepared to take on an early onset patient with PCA and therefore nobody who could legitimately write me a prescription for the only palliative Alzheimer's drug on the market. When I learned this I was filled with a rage, a rage that is with me still, but by now tempered and harnessed to practical purposes. I felt alone. A cancer sufferer, just diagnosed, can at least have some map showing the way the future might, hopefully, go. And I don't seek to minimize how dreadful that disease would be, but there would be appointments, there would be specialists, there would be tests. Hopefully, you would receive sympathy, and hopefully you would have hope.

But, at that time the Alzheimer's patient was more or less told to go home. Indeed, I have been contacted by patients who were in effect told just that, with not even the suggestion that they might talk to, for example, the Alzheimer's Society. I will say an another aside, I'm not the sort of person who goes to groups, but much later, I was persuaded to go to a PCA meeting in London, hosted by Professor Rosser of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. I remember the smiles when I started talking about the symptoms and it was hugely refreshing to be among people who understood without having to be told. But I had seen the bicycle clips of fire; I would have thrown a brick through a pharmacy window late at night for the medication I needed, and come to think of it, that might have made a damn good photo opportunity, but friends and contacts of mine who cared about my liberty helped me deal with the situation in the way that people deal with such situations in stupid hidebound bureaucracies. We bent things, just a tiny little bit. It wasn't as though I was stealing. I still had to pay for the damn drugs.

But then it was time to decide who I was going to tell, and for the reasons given earlier, I decided to tell everybody. After that, my life ceased to be my own. I have had so much mail that not all of it can be answered in my lifetime. And I cannot remember how many interviews I have given. They must run into three figures easily. We did the BAFTA Award winning documentary, in which I demonstrated to the world the impossibility of my tying a tie (funnily enough, I can tie my shoe laces, presumably because I have known how to do that for longer.) I have also been able to write two more books, which my PA insists I tell you were bestsellers, had a stone bridge built over the stream in my garden, have been kissed by Joanna Lumley and after being, astonishingly, knighted, subsequently made, with the help of knowledgeable friends, a sword- doing it the hard way, by first digging the iron ore out of the ground and smelting it in the garden. Of course, I shall never be able to take it out on the street, because such is the decay of our society that not even Knights can carry their swords in public. But who could ask for anything more? Except for, maybe, another kiss from Joanna Lumley.

But most of all in the last couple of years I have been listening. As a journalist, I learned to listen. It is amazing how much people will tell you if you listen in the right way. Rob, my PA, says that I can listen like a vacuum cleaner. Always beware of somebody who is a really good listener.

I have heard it said that some people feel that they are being avoided once the news gets around that they have Alzheimer's. For me it has been just the reverse. People want to talk to me, on city streets, in theater queues, on airplanes over the Atlantic, even on country walks. They want to tell me about their mother, their husband, their grandmother. Sometimes it is clear to me that they are extremely frightened. And increasingly, they want to talk about what I prefer to call "assisted death", but which is still called, wrongly in my opinion, "assisted suicide".

I will digress slightly at this point to talk about the baggage that words carry. Let us start with suicide. As a pallid and nervous young journalist I got to know about suicide. Oh, didn't I just. It was part of my regular tasks to sit in at the Coroner's court, where I earned all the manifold ways the disturbed human brain can devise to die. High bridges and trains were, I suspect, the most traumatic instruments for all concerned, especially those who had to deal with the aftermath. Newspapers were a little more kindly in those days, and e tended not to go into too much detail, but I had to listen to it. And I remember that Coroner's never used the word "insanity". They preferred the more compassionate verdict that the subject had "taken his life while the balance of his mind was disturbed." There was ambivalence to the phrase, a suggestion of the winds of fate and overwhelming circumstance. No need o go into the horrible details that the Coroner's officer, always a policeman, mentioned to me after the case. In fact, by now, I have reached the conclusion that a person may make a decision to die because the balance of their mind is level, realistic, pragmatic, stoic and sharp. And that is why I dislike the term "assisted suicide" applied to the carefully thought out and weighed up process of having one's life ended by gentle medical means.

The people who thus far have made the harrowing trip to Dignitas in Switzerland to die seemed to me to be very firm and methodical of purpose, with a clear prima facie case for wanting their death to be on their own terms. In short, their mind may well be in better balance than the world around them.

I'll return again to my father's request to me, that I was unable to fulfill. In the course of the past year or so I have talked amiably bout the issues of assisted dying to people of all sorts, because they have broached the subject. A lot of them get nervy about the term quot;assisted death" and seriously nervous about "assisted suicide", but when I mention my father's mantra about (not wishing to go on living supported by) the pipes and tubes they brighten up and say "Oh, yes, I don't have any problem with that". That was the problem reduced from a sterile title into the wishes of a real person in whom, perhaps, they could see themselves.

When I began to draft his speech, the so-called debate on assisted dying was like a snowball fight in the dark. Now, it seems to be occupying so much space in the media that I wonder whether it is something in the air, an idea whose time is really coming. Very recently an impassioned outburst by Martin Amis in an interview he gave to the Sunday Times called for euthanasia booths on every street corner. I firmly believe it was there to trap the hard of irony, and I note that it has done so- he was, after all, a novelist talking about a new book. Did it get publicity? It surely did. Apart from being tasteless, the idea is impractical, especially if there happens to be a photo booth next door. But his anger and grief at the way elderly relatives, friends and colleagues have died is clearly genuine and shared by a great many. The post-war generation has seen what's happened to their elders and are determined that it should not happen to them.

Even more recently, the British Social Attitude Survey found that 71% of religious people and 92% of non-religious people were in favor of medically assisted dying for patients with incurable illnesses if they should request it.

Insofar as there are sides in this debate, they tend to polarize around the Dignity in Dying organization, who favor assisted death in special circumstances, while others support the Care Not Killing Alliance whose position, in a nutshell, appears to be that care will cope.

And once again I remember my father. He did not want to die a curious kind of living death. He wasn't that kind of person. He wanted to say goodbye to me, and knowing him, he would probably have finished with joke of some sort. And if the nurses had put the relevant syringe in the cannula, I would have pressed it, and felt it was my duty. There would have been tears, of course there would, tears would be appropriate and insuppressible.

But of course, this did not happen because myself, my father and the nurses were locked in the aspic of the law. But he actually had a good death in the arms of morphia and I envy him.

I got involved in the debate surrounding "assisted death" by accident after taking a long and, yes, informed look at my future as someone with Alzheimer's and subsequently writing an article about my conclusions. As a result of my "coming out" about the disease I now have contacts in medical research industries all over the world, and I have no reason to believe that a "cure" is imminent. I do think, on their good advice, that there may be some very interesting developments in the next couple of years and I'm not the only one to hope for some kind of "stepping stone"- a treatment that will keep me going long enough for a better treatment to be developed.

I said earlier that PCA at the end game is effectively the same as Alzheimer's and that it is the most feared disease among the elderly and although I was diagnosed when I was 59, it has struck adults in their thirties. I enjoy my life, and wish to continue it for as long as I am still myself, knowing who I am and recognizing my nearest and dearest. But I know enough about the endgame to be fearful of it, despite the fact that as a wealthy man I could probably shield myself from the worst, but even the wealthy, whatever they may do, have their appointment in Samarra. For younger members of the audience, I should say that the fable "Appointment in Samarra" is probably one of the oldest stories in the world and has been recast many times and it's central point is that you can run and you can hide, but every man has his inevitable appointment with death. It's worth a Google.

Back in my early reporting days I was told something that surprised me at the time; nobody has to do what the doctor tells them. I learned this when Chief Reporter, George Topley, slung my copy back at me and said "never say that a patient has been released from hospital unless you are talking about someone who is being detained on mental grounds. The proper word is discharged, and even though the staff would like you to believe that you just can't walk out until they say so, you damn well can. Although, generally speaking, it's best not to be dragging a portable life support system down the steps with you." George was a remarkable journalist who as a fiery young man would have fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War were it not for the fact that he stowed away on the wrong boat and ended up in Hull.

And I remember what George said and vowed that rather than let Alzheimer's take me, I would take it. I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the "Brompton Cocktail," a potent mixture of painkillers and brandy, some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

I have made my position publicly clear; this seems to me quite a reasonable and sensible decision for someone with a serious, incurable and debilitating disease to elect for a medically assisted death by appointment.

These days non-traumatic death- not the best word, but you will know what I mean- which is to say, deaths that don't, for example, involve several cars, a tanker and a patch of ice on the M4- largely take place in hospitals and hospices. Not so long ago it took place in your own bed. The Victorians knew how to die. They saw a lot of death. And Victorian and Edwardian London were awash with what we would call recreational drugs, which were seen as a boon and a blessing to all. Departing on schedule with the help of a friendly doctor was quite usual and there is every reason to believe that the medical profession considered that part of its duty was to help the stricken patient on their way.

Does that still apply? It would seem so. Did the Victorians fear death? As Death says in one of my own books, most men don't fear death, they fear those things- the knife, the shipwreck, the illness, the bomb, which proceed by micro seconds, if you're lucky, and many years if you're not- the moment of death.

And this brings us into the whole care or killing argument.

The Care Not Killing Alliance, as they phrase it, assures us that no one need consider a voluntary death of any sort since care is always available. This is questionable. Medicine is keeping more and more people alive, all requiring more and more care. Alzheimer's and other dementias place a huge care burden on the country. A burden which falls initially on the next of kin who may even be elderly and, indeed, be in need of some sort of care themselves. The number is climbing as the baby boomers get older, but in addition the percentage of cases of dementia among the population is also growing. We then have to consider the quality of whatever care there may be, not just for dementia but for all long term conditions. I will not go into the horror stories, this is not the place and maybe I should leave the field open to Sir Michael Parkinson, who as the government's dignity ambassador, describes incidents that are, and I quote, "absolutely barmy and cruel beyond belief" and care homes as little more than "waiting rooms for death."

It appears that care is a lottery and there are those of us who don't wish to be cared for and who do not want to spend their time in anyone's waiting room, to have the right not to do what you are told by a nurse, not to obey the doctor. A right, in my case, to demand here and now the power of attorney over the fate of the Terry Pratchett that, at some future date, I will become. People exorcise themselves when they wonder what their nearest and dearest would really want. Well, my nearest and dearest know. So do you.

A major objection frequently flourished by opponents of "assisted dying" is that elderly people might be illegally persuaded into "asking" for assisted death. Could be, but the Journal of Medical Ethics reported in 2007 that there was no evidence of the abuse of vulnerable patients in Oregon where assisted dying is currently legal. I don't see why things should be any different here. I'm sure nobody considers dying flippantly; the idea that people would persuade themselves to die just because some hypothetical Acme One-Stop Death Shop has opened down the road is fantastical. But I can easily envisage a person, elderly or otherwise, weighed down with medical problems and understandably fearful of the future, and dreading what is hopefully called care, may consider that the "Victorian style death", gently assisted by a medical professional, at home, might be a more dignified way to go.

Last year, the government finally published guidelines on dealing with assisted death. They did not appear to satisfy anybody. It seems that those wishing to assist a friend or relative to die would have to meet quite a large number of criteria in order to escape the chance of prosecution for murder. We should be thankful that some possibility that they might not be prosecuted is in theory possible, but as laid out, the best anyone can do is keep within the rules and hope for the best.

That's why I and others have suggested some kind of strictly non-aggressive tribunal that would establish the facts of the case well before the assisted death takes place. This might make some people, including me, a little uneasy as it suggests the government has the power to tell you whether you can live or die. But that said, the government cannot side step the responsibility to ensure the protection of the vulnerable and we must respect that. It grieves me that those against assisted death seem to assume, as a matter of course, that those of us who support it have not thought long and hard about this very issue and know that it is of fundamental importance. It is, in fact, at the soul and center of my argument.

The members of the tribunal would be acting for the good of society as well as that of the applicant, horrible word, and ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party. It would need wiser heads than mine, though heaven knows they should be easy enough to find, to determine how such tribunals are constituted. But I would suggest there should be a lawyer, one with expertise in dynastic family affairs who has become good at recognizing what somebody really means and indeed, if there is outside pressure. And a medical practitioner experienced in dealing with the complexities of serious long term illnesses.

Those opposing "assisted death" say that the vulnerable must be protected, as if that would not have occurred to anyone else. As a matter of fact there is no evidence- and evidence has been sought- that anywhere in the world where assisted dying is practiced, of the sick or elderly being cajoled into assisted death by relatives and I see no reason to believe why that would be the case here. Doctors tell me that, to the contrary, family members more often beg them to keep granny alive even when granny is indeed, by all medical standards, at the end of her natural life. Importantly, the tribunal would also serve to prevent, as much as humanly possible, any abuses.

I would also suggest that all those on the tribunal are over 45 years old, by which time they may have required the rare gift of wisdom, because wisdom and compassion should in this tribunal stand side-by-side with the law. The tribunal would also have to be a check on those seeking death for reasons that reasonable people may consider trivial or transient distress. I dare say that quite a few people have contemplated death for reasons that much later seemed to them to be quite minor. If we are to live in a world where a socially acceptable "early death" can be allowed, it must be allowed as a result of careful consideration.

Let us consider me as a test case. As I have said, I would like to die peacefully with Thomas Tallis on my iPod before the disease takes me over and I hope that will not be for quite some time to come, because if I knew that I could die at any time I wanted, then suddenly every day would be as precious as a million pounds. If I knew that I could die, I would live. My life, my death, my choice.

There has been no evidence in those areas where assisted dying is currently practiced that it leads to any kind of "slippery slope". It seems to be an item of faith among those opposed to assisted dying that it will open the door to abuses all the way up to the culling of the elderly sick. This is a nightmare and only a nightmare. This cannot be envisaged in any democracy unless we find ourselves under a tyranny, that is to say a tyranny that is far more aggressive than the mild one currently operated by the Health and Safety Executive. Frankly, that objection is a bogeyman.

It has been suggested that people would not trust their doctor if they knew that they had the power to kill them. Why should this be? A doctor has an awful lot to lose by killing a patient. Indeed, it seems to me that asking a medical practitioner, who is fully aware of your situation, to bring your life to an end is placing the utmost trust in them.

The saying "Though shall not kill; but needst not strive officiously to keep alive" has never been formal advice to the medical profession. Given that it was made up by Arthur Hugh Clough, who was in a similar profession to me, that is not surprising. But, ever since the birth of medicine, doctors have understood its meaning. They have striven, oh how they have striven. In the past two centuries we have improved the length of our lives and the quality of said lives to the point where we feel somewhat uneasy if anyone dies as early as the biblical age of 70. But there comes a time when technology outpaces sense, when we believe a blip on an oscilloscope is confused with life, and humanity unravels into a state of mere existence.

Observation, conversation and some careful deduction lead me to believe that the majority of doctors who support the right to die are those who are most closely involved day-to-day with patients, while support appears tail off as you reach those heights where politics and medicine merge. It would be interesting to speculate how many doctors would "come out" were it not for the baleful glare of the BMA. Anyone who has any long-term friendships, acquaintances or professional dealings within the medical profession, let alone knows anything about the social history of medicine, knows that down the ages it has seen it as part of its duty to allow those beyond hope and skill to depart in peace. I can recall the metaphors that have been used; helping them over the step. Showing them the way. Helping them find the door. Pointing them to heaven. But never, ever killing them, because in their minds they were not killing and in their minds they were right.

In fact, I have not found any reputable information from those places where assisted death is allowed that shows any deleterious effect on the community. I certainly do not expect or assume that every GP or hospital practitioner would be prepared to assist death by arrangement, even in the face of overwhelming medical evidence. That is their choice. Choice is very important in this matter. But there will be some probably older, probably wiser, who will understand. It seems sensible to me that we should look to the medical profession that over the centuries has helped us to live longer and healthier lives, to help us die peacefully among our loved ones in our own home without a long stay in god's waiting room.

And finally there is the god argument, which I think these days appears to have been subsumed into concern for the innocent that may suffer if assisted dying was allowed. The problem is with the god argument is that it only works if you believe in god, more specifically, Jehovah, which I do not. Spinoza, Darwin and Carl Sagan have found in my imagination places which god has never found. Therefore I am a humanist and would rather believe that we are a rising ape, not a falling angel. Nevertheless, I have a sneaking regard for the Church of England and those I disagree with. We should always debate ideas that appear to strike at the center of our humanity. Ideas and proposals should be tested. I believe that consensual "assisted death" for those that ask for it is quite hard to oppose, especially by those that have some compassion. But we do need in this world people to remind us that we are all human, and that humanity is precious.

It's that much heralded thing, the quality of life that important. How you live your life, what you get out of it, what you put into it and what you leave behind after it. We should aim for a good and rich life well lived, and at the end of it, in the comfort of our own home, in the company of those who love us, have a death worth dying for.

(YouTube video: "Choosing to Die." )

"In this documentary Terry Pratchett discusses his Alzheimer's and how it is slowly eroding away his life and his talent. He meets others with medical conditions which will inevitably lead to a prolonged, painful and above all undignified death and asks the question "is it better to end things early?" There are few answers here. Pratchett is on a genuine mission of inquiry, he's not preaching a position, nor does he end up with an opinion. Instead he takes a frank look at a subject most shy away from, and his only real conclusion is that we'd perhaps do well to think it through more than we do now.

"Be warned, towards the end of the documentary he accompanies a man to a Swiss clinic where he chooses to end his own life. This is not depicted in any kind of voyeuristic way, but both Pratchett and the camera do sit right there in the room with him and watches him die in cold, unflinching detail."

Categories: Alzheimer's Disease, Assisted death, Death, Euthanasia, Passages, PCA, Posterior Cortical Atrophy, Quotes of the day, Terry Pratchett

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Quotes of the day

Published Saturday, April 27, 2013 @ 7:00 AM EDT
Apr 27 2013

Edward Gibbon (April 27, 1737 - January 16, 1794) was an English historian and Member of Parliament. His most important work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)

All that is human must retrograde if it does not advance.

As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters.

Books are those faithful mirrors that reflect to our mind the minds of sages and heroes.

Conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius.

Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.

History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know no way of judging of the future but by the past.

I make it a point never to argue with people for whose opinion I have no respect.

I was never less alone than when by myself.

It has been calculated by the ablest politicians that no State, without being soon exhausted, can maintain above the hundredth part of its members in arms and idleness.

Our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery.

Revenge is profitable, gratitude is expensive.

The end comes when we no longer talk with ourselves. It is the end of genuine thinking and the beginning of the final loneliness.

The most worthless of mankind are not afraid to condemn in others the same disorders which they allow in themselves; and can readily discover some nice difference in age, character, or station, to justify the partial distinction.

The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.

To an active mind, indolence is more painful than labor.

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.

War, in its fairest form, implies a perpetual violation of humanity and justice.

We improve ourselves by victory over our self. There must be contests, and you must win.

Where error is irreparable, repentance is useless.

Categories: Edward Gibbon, Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day

Published Friday, April 26, 2013 @ 6:11 AM EDT
Apr 26 2013

Marcus Aurelius (April 26, 121 - March 17, 180), was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He ruled with Lucius Verus as co-emperor from 161 until Verus' death in 169. He was the last of the Five Good Emperors, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)

A man should be upright, not kept upright.

A wrongdoer is often a man who has left something undone, not always one who has done something.

All is ephemeral- fame and the famous as well.

All men are made one for another: either then teach them better, or bear with them.

Be not careless in deeds, nor confused in words, nor rambling in thought.

Consider that everything is opinion, and opinion is in thy power.

Every man's life lies within the present; for the past is spent and done with, and the future is uncertain.

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe.

How many together with whom I came into the world are already gone out of it.

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.

If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.

Let the wrong which is done by a man stay there where the wrong was done.

Our life is what our thoughts make it.

Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.

Remember that what pulls the strings is the force hidden within; there lies the power to persuade, there the life- there, if one must speak out, the real man.

Soon you will have forgotten the world, and soon the world will have forgotten you.

The opinion of 10,000 men is of no value if none of them know anything about the subject.

The sole thing of which any man can be deprived is the present; since this is all he owns.

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

To refrain from imitation is the best revenge.

Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.

What is not good for the swarm is not good for the bee.

You may break your heart, but men will still go on as before.

You will find rest from vain fancies if you perform every act in life as though it were your last.

Categories: Marcus Aurelius, Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day

Published Thursday, April 25, 2013 @ 12:00 AM EDT
Apr 25 2013

Edward R. Murrow (born Egbert Roscoe Murrow; April 25, 1908 - April 27, 1965) was an American broadcast journalist. He first came to prominence with a series of radio news broadcasts during World War II, which were followed by millions of listeners in the United States. A pioneer of television news broadcasting, Murrow produced a series of TV news reports that helped lead to the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Click here for full Wikipedia article.)

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

A satellite has no conscience.

Anyone who isn't confused doesn't really understand the situation.

Difficulty is the excuse history never accepts.

During the daily peak viewing periods, television in the main insulates us from the realities of the world in which we live. If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: LOOK NOW, PAY LATER.

Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences. No one can eliminate prejudices- just recognize them.

If we were to do the Second Coming of Christ in color for a full hour, there would be a considerable number of stations which would decline to carry it on the grounds that a Western or a quiz show would be more profitable.

Just once in a while let us exalt the importance of ideas and information.

Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.

No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.

Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.

People say conversation is a lost art; how often I have wished it were.

The fact that your voice is amplified to the degree where it reaches from one end of the country to the other does not confer upon you greater wisdom or understanding than you possessed when your voice reached only from one end of the bar to the other.

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it.

The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.

The only thing that counts is the right to know, to speak, to think- that, and the sanctity of the courts. Otherwise it's not America.

The politician is... trained in the art of inexactitude. His words tend to be blunt or rounded, because if they have a cutting edge they may later return to wound him.

The speed of communications is wondrous to behold. It is also true that speed can multiply the distribution of information that we know to be untrue.

This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and even it can inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it's nothing but wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful.

To be persuasive, we must be believable; to be believable, we must be credible; to be credible, we must be truthful.

We are in the same tent as the clowns and the freaks- that's show business.

We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.

We cannot make good news out of bad practice.

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law.

We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and remember we are not descended from fearful men.

When politicians complain that TV turns proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.

When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.

Categories: Edward R. Murrow, Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day

Published Wednesday, April 24, 2013 @ 6:19 AM EDT
Apr 24 2013

Anthony Trollope (April 24, 1815 – December 6, 1882) was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of his best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire. He also wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues, and on other topical matters. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)

A bull in a china shop is not a useful animal, nor is he ornamental, but there can be no doubt of his energy.

A drunkard or a gambler may be weaned from his ways, but not a politician.

I have sometimes thought that there is no being so venomous, so bloodthirsty as a professed philanthropist.

In political matters it is very hard for a man in office to be purer than his neighbors- and, when he is so, he becomes troublesome.

It has been the great fault of our politicians that they have all wanted to do something.

Let no man boast himself that he has got through the perils of winter till at least the seventh of May.

Love is like any other luxury. You have no right to it unless you can afford it.

Loyalty in politics was simply devotion to the side which a man conceives to be his side, and which he cannot leave without danger to himself.

Men who can succeed in deceiving no one else will succeed at last in deceiving themselves.

No man thinks there is much ado about nothing when the ado is about himself.

Of all hatreds that the world produces, a wife's hatred for her husband, when she does hate him, is the strongest.

People go on quarreling and fancying this and that, and thinking that the world is full of romance and poetry. When they get married they know better.

Power is so pleasant that men quickly learn to be greedy in the enjoyment of it, and to flatter themselves that patriotism requires them to be imperious.

Speeches easy to young speakers are generally very difficult to old listeners.

Success is a poison that should only be taken late in life and then only in small doses.

Success is the necessary misfortune of life, but it is only to the very unfortunate that is comes early.

The grace and beauty of life will be clean gone when we all become useful men.

There are words which a man cannot resist from a woman, even though he knows them to be false.

There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel.

There is no road to wealth so easy and respectable as that of matrimony.

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons.

Categories: Anthony Trollope, Quotes of the day

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An entire decade

Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 @ 8:33 AM EDT
Apr 23 2013

Exactly ten years ago, this very minute, I was on a United Airlines 737, somewhere over Indiana, heading back to Pittsburgh to see my first grandchild, Leanna Renee, who had been born two hours earlier.

It's been ten years, and we still don't have personal jet packs.

Categories: KGB Family, Observations

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Quotes of the day

Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 @ 7:33 AM EDT
Apr 23 2013

William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564 (baptised) – April 23, 1616) was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, two epitaphs on a man named John Combe, one epitaph on Elias James, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. (Click for full Wikipedia article.)

But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit.

Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways.

Conscience does make cowards of us all.

Fortune brings in some boats that were not steered.

Good wombs have borne bad sons.

He that dies, pays all debts.

I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.

Love all. Trust a few. Do wrong to none.

In a false quarrel there is no true valour.

Nothing emboldens sin so much as mercy.

One may smile, and smile, and be a villian.

Pride went before, ambition follows him.

So wise so young, they say, do never live long.

Striving to better, oft we mar what's well.

Tempt not the desperate man.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

The empty vessel makes the greatest sound.

The evil that men do lives after them; the good that men do is often interred with their bones.

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

The jewel of experience is paid with an infinite price.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

There's place and means for every man alive.

To weep is to make less the depth of grief.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

What you know, you know.

What's done cannot be undone.

What's gone and what's past help
Should be past grief.

What's past is prologue.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies.

You pay a great deal too dear for what's given freely.

Categories: William Shakespeare

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Don't forget...

Published Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 6:43 AM EDT
Apr 22 2013

Danny Shanahan nails it again.

Categories: Cartoons, Danny Shanahan, Holidays, The New Yorker

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More human than you thought

Published Monday, April 22, 2013 @ 6:10 AM EDT
Apr 22 2013

Each morning, like clockwork, they board the subway, off to begin their daily routine amidst the hustle and bustle of the city.

But these aren't just any daily commuters. These are stray dogs who live in the outskirts of Moscow Russia and commute on the underground trains to and from the city centre in search of food scraps.

Then after a hard day scavenging and begging on the streets, they hop back on the train and return to the suburbs where they spend the night.

Experts studying the dogs, who usually choose the quietest carriages at the front and back of the train, say they even work together to make sure they get off at the right stop – after learning to judge the length of time they need to spend on the train.

Scientists believe this phenomenon began after the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, and Russia’s new capitalists moved industrial complexes from the city centre to the suburbs.

Dr Andrei Poiarkov, of the Moscow Ecology and Evolution Institute, said: "These complexes were used by homeless dogs as shelters, so the dogs had to move together with their houses. Because the best scavenging for food is in the city centre, the dogs had to learn how to travel on the subway – to get to the centre in the morning, then back home in the evening, just like people."

Dr Poiarkov told how the dogs like to play during their daily commute. He said: "They jump on the train seconds before the doors shut, risking their tails getting jammed. They do it for fun. And sometimes they fall asleep and get off at the wrong stop."

The dogs have also amazingly learned to use traffic lights to cross the road safely, said Dr Poiarkov. And they use cunning tactics to obtain tasty morsels of shawarma, a kebab-like snack popular in Moscow.

With children the dogs "play cute" by putting their heads on youngsters’ knees and staring pleadingly into their eyes to win sympathy – and scraps.

Dr Poiarkov added: "Dogs are surprisingly good psychologists."

Click here for the original story.

Categories: Dogs

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re: Sundays

Published Sunday, April 21, 2013 @ 7:05 AM EDT
Apr 21 2013

A lot of people spend six days sowing wild oats, then go to church on Sunday and pray for a crop failure.
-Fred Allen

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
-H.L. Mencken

Don't judge a man's wealth-or his piety-by his appearance on Sunday.
-Benjamin Franklin

Every Sunday I give thanks that there's nothing in Leviticus about liking show tunes.
-Kevin G. Barkes

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.
-Billy Sunday

He had, in fact, got everything from the church and Sunday School, except, perhaps, any longing whatever for decency and kindness and reason.
-Sinclair Lewis

I don't think suicide is so terrible. Some rainy winter Sunday when there's a little boredom, you should always carry a gun. Not to shoot yourself, but to know exactly that you're always making a choice.
-Lina Wertmuller

I take my pet lion to church every Sunday. He has to eat.
-Marty Pollio

If the American Atheists Society or Saddam Hussein himself ever sent an unrestricted gift to any of my ministries, be assured I will operate on Billy Sunday's philosophy: The Devil's had it long enough, and quickly cash the check.
-Jerry Falwell

Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
-Susan Ertz

More men fail through lack of purpose than through lack of talent.
-Billy Sunday

Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.
-Woody Allen

Spiritual is the word people use when they mean they want to be covered when they die but they're not getting up early on a Sunday.
-Richard Jeni

Sunday is the day people go quietly mad, one way or another.
-William Saroyan

Sunday: A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell.
-H.L. Mencken

The Maker of the universe with stars a hundred thousand light-years apart was interested, furious, and very personal about it if a small boy played baseball on Sunday afternoon.
-Sinclair Lewis

Categories: Quotes on a topic

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Good grief

Published Saturday, April 20, 2013 @ 6:26 AM EDT
Apr 20 2013

Categories: Cartoons, Second Amendment

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Journalism: not what it used to be.

Published Friday, April 19, 2013 @ 12:07 PM EDT
Apr 19 2013

"Something is happening. I don't know what. But I smell smoke. And dogs are barking."
-Live report on CNN

Categories: CNN, News Media, WTF?

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The "t" word

Published Friday, April 19, 2013 @ 5:56 AM EDT
Apr 19 2013

Democratic nations must try to find ways to starve the terrorist and the hijacker of the oxygen of publicity on which they depend.
-Margaret Thatcher

Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.
-Paul Wilkinson

I figure if I don't have that third martini, then the terrorists win.
-J.C. Duffy (New Yorker cartoon caption)

If we like them, they're freedom fighters... If we don't like them, they're terrorists. In the unlikely case we can't make up our minds, they're temporarily only guerrillas.
-Carl Sagan

No one can terrorize a whole nation, unless we are all his accomplices.
-Edward R. Murrow

Remember the axiom: the danger of terrorism lies not in what it inflicts but in what it provokes.
-Martin Amis

Terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.
-Christopher Hitchens

Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich.
-Peter Ustinov

Terrorism is what we call the violence of the weak, and we condemn it; war is what we call the violence of the strong, and we glorify it.
-Sydney J. Harris

Terrorists is what the little army calls the big army.
-Unattributed (Bumper Sticker)

The terrorist lives for terror, not for the change he tells himself he wants. He masks his desire to kill and destroy behind the curtain of a cause.
-Louis L'Amour

There is no inverse relationship between freedom and security. Less of one does not lead to more of the other. People with no rights are not safe from terrorist attack.
-Molly Ivins

They don't want to live; they want you to die.
-Ayn Rand (re: terrorists)

When homophobia trumps terrorism as an issue... wow. This country needs to get laid.
-Bill Maher

Categories: Quotes on a topic, Terrorism

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Leanna's birthday quiz.

Published Thursday, April 18, 2013 @ 6:57 AM EDT
Apr 18 2013

Hard to believe, but my granddaughter Leanna turns 10 on April 23. Double digits!

(YouTube video: Leanna opens her present- a cell phone- and her mom asks a question.)

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An impressive exit

Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 @ 2:42 AM EDT
Apr 17 2013

Benjamin Franklin died in his home in Philadelphia on April 17, 1790. He was 84.

His funeral took place four days later, and was unprecedented.

Richard Saunders of the Poor Richard's Almanac blog wrote:

Like his life, Ben Franklin's funeral was extraordinary. Held in his adoptive hometown, Philadelphia, it was more like a parade. That's because he was not only the most famous citizen of Philadelphia- at the time, the largest city in America- but also the most famous man in the world. The citizens- 20,000 of them- poured into the streets to accompany his coffin to its resting place, Christ Church burial ground. Today, when hundreds of thousands gather to watch a football game or rock concert, 20,000 may not seem like much of a crowd. But back in 1790, the entire population of Philadelphia was only 28,500. Imagine more than two-thirds of the population of, say, modern New York City, London, or Mumbai taking to the streets for somebody's funeral, and you'll get an idea of what Dr. Franklin's funeral procession must have been like.

The sheer size of the crowd wasn't even the most amazing thing about Ben Franklin's funeral. The procession itself was like a microcosm of old Ben's entire life and achievements. It was led by the assembled clergy of Philadelphia, regardless of denomination, to honor the man who had made freedom to worship as one pleased a cornerstone of the new Republic and had done so much to raise funds for the building of the city's houses of worship. This may have been the first ecumenical gathering ever. There was even a rabbi- and this was back in 1790, in the same century that gave us the Salem witch trials!

Prominent Philadelphia dignitaries, including the mayor and the astronomer David Rittenhouse, carried the coffin. Behind it marched the city's printers (Franklin considered himself first and foremost a printer), then the philosophers (Ben had cofounded the American Philosophical Society), then the physicians of Philadelphia (Dr. Franklin was also a founder of the first medical school in America). The Society of the Cincinnati, an elite society of officers of the American Revolution whose members included George Washington, came next in the procession. From printer's apprentices to the most elite and exclusive society in America, from physicians to philosophers, from priests to politicians, Benjamin Franklin's funeral procession summed up the true work of his life, which was to bring people from all walks of life together in friendship, to their mutal benefit and betterment.

At heart, Benjamin Franklin was a plain man. So it's fitting that his tombstone, rather than some towering monument of curlicues and statuary, is a plain slab that simply reads "Benjamin and Deborah Franklin 1790." You can see his grave for yourself, as I have, in the churchyard at the corner of 5th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia. But the country and the world he made better places were not through showing their grief at his passing. At James Madison's suggestion, the House of Representatives wore mourning for a month. The French National Assembly also wore mourning to honor the man the French loved perhaps even more than his fellow Americans did. (As Count Mirabeau so ably summed it up, "He was able to restrain thunderbolts and tyrants.")

(Click here for the full article.)


People will accept your idea much more readily if you tell them Benjamin Franklin said it first.
-David H. Comins


Quotes by Benjamin Franklin:

A false friend and a shadow attend only when the sun shines.

A great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges.

A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one.

A little neglect may breed mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse the rider was lost.

A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law.

A Traveller should have a hog's nose, deer's legs, and an ass's back.

An egg today is better than a hen tomorrow.

An empty bag cannot stand upright.

Anger is never without a reason, but seldom a good one.

Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.

Beauty and folly are old companions.

Beware of the young doctor and the old barber.

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will never be disappointed.

Creditors have better memories than debtors.

Distrust and caution are the parents of security.

Don't judge a man's wealth-or his piety-by his appearance on Sunday.

Even peace may be purchased at too high a price.

Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.

Fatigue is the best pillow.

Genius without education is like silver in the mine.

Glass, China, and Reputation, are easily crack'd, and never well mended.

God heals, the doctor takes the fee.

Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.

Half a truth is often a great lie.

He is a fool that cannot conceal his wisdom.

He that cannot obey, cannot command.

He that displays too often his wife and his wallet is in danger of having both of them borrowed.

He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.

He that is of the opinion money will do everything may well be suspected of doing everything for money.

He that speaks ill of the mare will buy her.

He who waits upon Fortune is never sure of Dinner.

He's a fool that makes his doctor his heir.

Hunger never saw bad bread.

I haven't failed. I've found 10,000 ways that don't work.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no one can take it away from him. An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest.

If Jack's in love, he's no judge of Jill's beauty.

If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without it?

If you can't pay for a thing, don't buy it. If you can't get paid for it, don't sell it.

If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

In rivers and bad governments, the lightest things swim at the top.

Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and He that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no Gains, without Pains.

It is the eyes of other people that ruin us. If all but myself were blind, I should want neither a fine house nor fine furniture.

Laws too gentle are seldom obeyed; too severe, seldom executed.

Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.

Many foxes grow gray, but few grow good.

Many have quarreled about religion that never practiced it.

Many men die at twenty-five and aren't buried until they are seventy-five.

Most fools think they are only ignorant.

Necessity knows no law; I know some attorneys of the same.

Necessity never made a good bargin.

One good husband is worth two good wives; for the scarcer things are, the more they are valued.

One Today is worth two Tomorrows.

Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes.

Praise to the undeserving is severe satire.

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

The absent are never without fault. Nor the present without excuse.

The best is the cheapest.

The cat in gloves catches no mice.

The greatest monarch on the proudest throne, is oblig'd to sit upon his own arse.

The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.

There are no ugly loves, nor handsome prisons.

There are three great friends: an old wife, an old dog and ready money.

There is much difference between imitating a good man and counterfeiting him.

There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.

There is nothing so absurd as knowledge spun too fine.

There never was a good war or a bad peace.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty or safety.

Think about these things: Whence you came, where you are going, and to whom you must account.

Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

To be proud of knowledge is to be blind with light.

Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.

Well done is better than well said.

What maintains one vice would bring up two children.

Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.

When the well's dry, we know the worth of water.

Where liberty is, there is my country.

Where there's marriage without love, there will be love without marriage.

Who is wise? He that learns from everyone. Who is powerful? He that governs his passions. Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.

Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it.

Write injuries in dust, benefits in marble.

You cannot strengthen one by weakening another; and you cannot add to the stature of a dwarf by cutting off the leg of a giant.

You may delay, but Time will not.

Categories: Benjamin Franklin, History, Quotes of the day

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Quotes of the day

Published Tuesday, April 16, 2013 @ 1:09 AM EDT
Apr 16 2013

Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville (July 29, 1805 – April 16, 1859) was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he analyzed the rising living standards and social conditions of individuals and their relationship to the market and state in Western societies. Democracy in America (1835), his major work, published after his travels in the United States, is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.
(Click here for the full Wikipedia article.)

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.

All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.

America is a land of wonders, in which everything is in constant motion and every change seems an improvement.

Americans are so enamored of equality, they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

An American cannot converse, but he can discuss, and his talk falls into a dissertation. He speaks to you as if he was addressing a meeting; and if he should chance to become warm in the discussion, he will say Gentlemen to the person with whom he is conversing.

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

Grant me thirty years of equal division of inheritances and a free press, and I will provide you with a republic.

He who seeks freedom for anything but freedom's self is made to be a slave.

History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.

I cannot help fearing that men may reach a point where they look on every new theory as a danger, every innovation as a toilsome trouble, every social advance as a first step toward revolution, and that they may absolutely refuse to move at all.

I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.

I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.

I know of no other country where love of money has such a grip on men's hearts or where stronger scorn is expressed for the theory of permanent equality of property.

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

In democratic society each citizen is habitually busy with the contemplation of a very petty object, which is himself.

In order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils that it creates.

In politics, a community of hatred is almost always the foundation of friendship.

In reality it is far less prejudicial to witness the immorality of the great than to witness that immorality which leads to greatness.

In the United States, the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own.

Laws are always unstable unless they are founded on the manners of a nation; and manners are the only durable and resisting power in a people.

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country.

Nothing is more wonderful than the art of being free, but nothing is harder to learn how to use than freedom.

Nothing is quite so wretchedly corrupt as an aristocracy which has lost its power but kept its wealth and which still has endless leisure to devote to nothing but banal enjoyments. All its great thoughts and passionate energy are things of the past, and nothing but a host of petty, gnawing vices now cling to it like worms to a corpse." - See more at: http://quotationsbook.com/quotes/author/7251/#sthash.tSMtewpv.hl79U7kf. .dpufNothing is quite so wretchedly corrupt as an aristocracy which has lost its power but kept its wealth and which still has endless leisure to devote to nothing but banal enjoyments. All its great thoughts and passionate energy are things of the past, and nothing but a host of petty, gnawing vices now cling to it like worms to a corpse.

Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question."

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

The happy and powerful do not go into exile, and there are no surer guarantees of equality among men than poverty and misfortune.

The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.

The last thing a political party gives up is its vocabulary.

The main business of religions is to purify, control, and restrain that excessive and exclusive taste for well-being which men acquire in times of equality.

The more alike men are, the weaker each feels in the face of all.

The most dangerous moment for a bad government is when it begins to reform.

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colors breaking through.

The whole life of an American is passed like a game of chance, a revolutionary crisis, or a battle.

"The will of the nation" is one of those expressions which have been most profusely abused by the wily and the despotic of every age.

There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle.

There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult- to begin a war and to end it.

Under wage labor, the art advances, the artisan declines.

We can state with conviction, therefore, that a man's support for absolute government is in direct proportion to the contempt he feels for his country.

What is called family pride is often founded on the illusion of self-love. A man wishes to perpetuate and immortalize himself.

What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands.

When I refuse to obey an unjust law, I do not contest the right of the majority to command, but I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of mankind.

In a revolution, as in a novel. the most difficult part to invent is the end.

Not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but also clouds their view of their descendants and isolates them from their contemporaries. Each man is for ever thrown back on himself alone, and there is danger that he may be shut up in the solitude of his own heart.

Categories: Alexis de Tocqueville, Quotes of the day

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Bonus, non-tax related quote of the day

Published Monday, April 15, 2013 @ 3:39 AM EDT
Apr 15 2013

If I had a dollar for every time I thought about you, I would start thinking about you.
-Bill Murray

Categories: Bill Murray, Quotes of the day

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On taxes...

Published Monday, April 15, 2013 @ 12:36 AM EDT
Apr 15 2013

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.
-Alexis de Tocqueville

A dog who thinks he is a man's best friend is a dog who obviously has never met a tax lawyer.
-Fran Lebowitz

A fine is a tax for doing wrong; a tax is a fine for doing well.

A person doesn't know how much he has to be thankful for until he has to pay taxes on it.
-Ann Landers

A society which turns so many of its best and brightest into tax lawyers may be doing something wrong.
-Hoffman F. Fuller

A tax cut is really one of the anecdotes to coming out of an economic illness.
-George W. Bush

[A tax loophole] is something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform.
-Russell B. Long

[A] taxpayer is someone who has to work for the federal government without taking a civil-service test.
-Ronald Reagan

And above all, above all, honest work must be rewarded by a fair and just tax system. The tax system today does not reward hard work: it penalizes it. Inherited or invested wealth frequently multiplies itself while paying no taxes at all. But wages on the assembly line or in farming the land, these hard-earned dollars are taxed to the very last penny.
-George McGovern

Anybody has a right to evade taxes if he can get away with it. No citizen has a moral obligation to assist in maintaining the government.
-J.P. Morgan

Bachelors should be heavily taxed. It is not fair that some men should be happier than others.
-Oscar Wilde

Behind every man who achieves success,
Stands a mother, a wife
And the IRS.
-Ethel Jacobson

Being audited by the IRS is like having an autopsy without the benefit of dying.

Death and taxes are unsolved engineering problems.
-Romana Machado

Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.

Doing your taxes is a great way to be reminded that you are unsuccessful, unmarried and childless without having to talk to your mother.
-Bryan Donaldson

Every advantage has its tax.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Good software leads to more work. Bad software leads to more work. If there's any time left over from fiddling with software, people spend it on making the tax and legal systems more complicated.
-Bill Westfield

Governments last as long as the undertaxed can defend themselves against the overtaxed.
-Bernard Berenson

Gradually, without noticing it, you turn into a Republican and judge everything on the basis of whether or not it will increase your taxes.
-Dave Barry

I bet that if you actually read the entire vastness of the U.S. Tax Code, you'd find at least one sex scene.
-Dave Barry

I guess I think of lotteries as a tax on the mathematically challenged.
-Roger Jones

I make a fortune from criticizing the policy of the government, and then hand it over to the government in taxes to keep it going.
-George Bernard Shaw

I owed the government $3,400 in taxes. So I sent them two hammers and a toilet seat.
-Sue Murphy

I prefer liquor store robbers with hungry kids to companies that locate offshore to avoid U.S. taxes.
-Warren Buffett

I want to find a voracious, small-minded predator and name it after the IRS.
-Robert Bakker (Mr. Bakker is a paleontologist)

I wouldn't mind paying taxes if I knew they were going to a friendly country.
-Dick Gregory

If I have sex, I know my quarterly estimated taxes must be due. And if it's oral sex, I know it's time to renew my driver's license.
-Ray Romano

If Patrick Henry thought taxation without representation was bad, he should see how bad it is with representation.
-The Farmer's Almanac

If the Lord had meant us to pay income taxes, he'd have made us smart enough to prepare the return.
-Kirk Kirkpatrick

In case you didn't know, ethanol is made by mixing corn with your tax dollars.
-Paul A. Gigot

Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.
-Milton Friedman

Interesting thing about being rich is once you pay your taxes, you're still rich.
-Lewis Black

Internal Revenue Service: The world's most successful mail order business.
-Bob Goddard

IRS: We've got what it takes to take what you've got.
-(Bumper Sticker)

It's a game. We [tax lawyers] teach the rich how to play it so they can stay rich- and the IRS keeps changing the rules so we can keep getting rich teaching them.
-John Grisham

It's income tax time again, Americans: time to gather up those receipts, get out those tax forms, sharpen up that pencil, and stab yourself in the aorta.
-Dave Barry

Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.
-Lord Bramwell

My uncle claims that if he files his income tax wrong he'll go to jail, and if he files it right he'll go to the poor house.
-Nonnee Coan

Next to being shot at and missed, nothing is as satisfying as an income tax refund.
-F.J. Raymond

Nonprofit status is what created the Bible Belt. The tax code brought religion back to this country.
-Gore Vidal

On my income tax 1040 it says "Check this box if you are blind." I wanted to put a check mark about three inches away.
-Tom Lehrer

On the whole, I prefer not to be lectured on patriotism by those who keep offshore maildrops in order to avoid paying their taxes.
-Molly Ivins

Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last; but nothing in this world is certain but death and taxes.
-Benjamin Franklin

Owning your own home is America's unique recipe for avoiding revolution and promoting pseudo-equality at the same time. To keep citizens puttering in their yards instead of sputtering on the barricades, the government has gladly deprived itself of billions in tax revenues by letting home "owners" deduct mortgage interest payments.
-Florence King

Passive activity income does not include the following: Income from an activity that is not a passive activity.
(Instructions to IRS Form 8582, Passive Activity Loss Limitations)

People want just taxes more than they want lower taxes. They want to know that every man is paying his proportionate share according to his wealth.
-Will Rogers

Political figures who talk a lot about liberty and freedom invariably turn out to mean the freedom to not pay taxes and discriminate based on race; freedom to hold different ideas and express them, not so much.
-Paul Krugman

Real charity doesn't care if it's tax-deductible or not.
-Dan Bennett

Taking somebody's money without permission is stealing, unless you work for the IRS; then it's taxation. Killing people en masse is homicidal mania, unless you work for the Army; then it's National Defense. Spying on your neighbors is invasion of privacy, unless you work for the FBI; then it's National Security. Running a whorehouse makes you a pimp and poisoning people makes you a murderer, unless you work for the CIA; then it's counter-intelligence.
-Robert Anton Wilson

Tax reform is taking the taxes off things that have been taxed in the past and putting taxes on things that haven't been taxed before.
-Art Buchwald

Taxes and golf are alike: you drive your heart out for the green, and then end up in the hole.

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
-Robert A. Heinlein

Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes

The avoidance of taxes is the only pursuit that still carries any reward.
-John Maynard Keynes

The best measure of a man's honesty isn't his income tax return. It's the zero adjust on his bathroom scale.
-Arthur C. Clarke

The chief deduction most people make from their income tax is that government costs too darned much.
-Walt Streightiff

The contented and economically comfortable have a very discriminating view of government. Nobody is ever indignant about bailing out failed banks and failed savings and loans associations... But when taxes must be paid for the lower middle class and poor, the government assumes an aspect of wickedness.
-John Kenneth Galbraith

[The Eiffel Tower is] the Empire State Building after taxes.

The First Rule of Practicing Tax Law: If someone has to go to jail, make sure it's the client.
-Fred Drasner

The government is mainly an expensive organization to regulate evildoers and tax those who behave.
-E.W. Howe

The hardest thing in the world to understand is income taxes.
-Albert Einstein

[The IRS] may take some solace in the fact that Matthew was a tax collector before he became a saint.
-Donald C. Alexander

The one thing that hurts more than having to pay income tax is not having to pay income tax.
-Thomas R. Dewar

The only civilized country is one in which no man is afraid of the tax collector.
-Juan de Mariana

The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.
-Will Rogers

The only things in life that you can't avoid are death and taxes. And an occasional pedestrian.
-Perry Friedman

The rich aren't like us; they pay less taxes.
-Peter de Vries

When dealing with the IRS, the trick is to stop thinking of it as "your" money.

The United States is the only country where it takes more brains to figure your tax than to earn the money to pay it.
-Edward J. Gurney

The wages of sin are death, but after taxes are taken out, it's just a tired feeling.
-Paula Poundstone

The way taxes are, you might as well marry for love.
-Joe E. Lewis

There is untold wealth in America, especially at tax time.
-(Cartoon caption in The Wall Street Journal)

There's always somebody who is paid too much, and taxed too little- and it's always somebody else.
-Cullen Hightower

This year I'm going to deduct last year's taxes as a bad investment.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which hasoccurred.
-(If Error Messages Were Haiku, www.pcpoetry.com)

To steal from one person is theft. To steal from many is taxation.
-Jeff Daiell

Unquestionably, there is progress. The average American now pays out twice as much in taxes as he formerly got in wages.
-H.L. Mencken

We've got so much taxation. I don't know of a single foreign product that enters this country untaxed except the answer to prayer.
-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

What we should have fought for was representation without taxation.
-Sam Levenson

When a new source of taxation is found it never means, in practice, that an old source is abandoned. It merely means that the politicians have two ways of milking the taxpayer where they had only one before.
-H.L. Mencken

When everybody has got money they cut taxes, and when they're broke they raise 'em. That's statesmanship of the highest order.
-Will Rogers

When it comes to finances, remember that there are no withholding taxes on the wages of sin.
-Mae West

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income.

When you come into the world you have nothing... when you leave you have nothing... and in between there's the IRS.
-Bob Thaves

Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200 and a substantial tax cut save you 30 cents?
-Peg Bracken

Categories: Quotes on a topic, Taxes

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Quotes of the day: Bruce Sterling

Published Sunday, April 14, 2013 @ 1:21 AM EDT
Apr 14 2013

Bruce Sterling is an Austin-born (April 14, 1954) science fiction writer and Net critic, internationally recognized as a cyberspace theorist who is also still based there. However, as a child he also spent a lot of time in India, which can partly explain why today still Sterling is fond of Bollywood movies. Sterling studied journalism. He published his first book, Involution Ocean, in 1977. However, he first started becoming famous in Austin by organizing every year a Christmas party where he would present digital art. In the 80s Sterling published Cheap Truth, a series of fanzines, which are magazines for fans of a particular performer, group, or form of entertainment. He did so under the surprising but revealing pen name of Vincent Omniaveritas. In latin, "vincit omnia veritas" means "truth conquers all things". Sterling's writings have been very influential in the cyberpunk movement in literature, specifically the novels Heavy Weather (1994), Islands in the Net (1988), Schismatrix (1985), The Artificial Kid (1980).


Another world is inevitable. The future is unwritten. Good luck to you.

As you accumulate more history you get more interested in history, but the great benefit of youth is that you don't have to forget that stuff is impossible.

Being afraid of monolithic organizations, especially when they have computers, is like being afraid of really big gorillas, especially when they are on fire.

Chaos is the worst kind of oppression because there is nothing to resist.

Don't become a well-rounded person. Well-rounded people are smooth and dull.

Forget trying to pass for normal. Follow your geekdom. Embrace nerditude.

I criticize stuff that doesn't exist yet.

I don't think there's much distinction between surveillance and media in general. Better media means better surveillance. Cams are everywhere.

I frankly take a lot of comfort in the idea that we human beings just don't know what's going on.

I used to think that cyberspace was 50 years away. What I thought was 50 years away, was only ten years away. And what I thought was ten years away... it was already here. I just wasn't aware of it yet.

I'd suggest trying to imagine somebody in the year 2062 sitting down to read 'the best tweets of 2012.' Does that prospect sound at all plausible to you? I'm a blogger and I'm very keen on randomly-assembled narrative chunks, but I've always known that blog content has a short shelf-life. It's like doing stand-up comedy.

I'm an entertainer in the military-entertainment complex.

If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, science-fiction writers are its court jesters.

If politics and business fail us, of course the military will be called in. In the developing world, the massive and repeated ecological disasters are quite commonly met by the military.

If we're like most civilizations, we're going to leave some of our most effective clues to ourselves in our garbage. We've got plenty of it, too. We've got pyramids of garbage.

If you're willing to wear an ascot or a tiara, you should be guaranteed real butter on your potatoes and a decent cappuccino at any time.

In a way, staring into a computer screen is like staring into an eclipse. It's brilliant and you don't realize the damage until it's too late.

In a world so redolent with wonder, how can we allow ourselves to conduct our daily lives with so little insight, such absence of dignity?

Information wants to be free, but it also wants to be archived. Time is no kinder to information than it is to any mythical substance.

It's a truism in technological development that no silver lining comes without its cloud.

It's one thing to talk softly and carry a big stick, but it's another to talk endlessly and have no stick at all.

On some deeper level, science fiction writers truly are cultural allies of scientists. We have a whole lot of the same enemies, and anyone who wants to hurt them, wants to hurt us. Also, we both get all depressed when we see stupid people being happy.

One of the points about distractions is that everything that they do is destabilizing.

People are going to combine the computation thing and the genetic biological thing and going to start actually tinkering with people's thought processes in an industrial way. And if you thought LSD was a lot of fun, wait until this really works.

People are never scared by the commonplaces of daily life, no matter how risky they are.

Privacy under what circumstance? Privacy at home under what circumstances? You have more privacy if everyone's illiterate, but you wouldn't really call that privacy. That's ignorance.

Remember, high-tech means breaks down next week, while cutting edge means breaks down this afternoon.

Saying you have a political solution is like saying you can write a pop song that's going to stay at the top of the list forever.

Science fiction writers are not as bad as apocalyptic conspiracy theorists (except for the ones who are apocalyptic conspiracy theorists), but they're not the kinds of personalities you actually want in positions of power and authority. Science fiction writers like amazing and wonderful and freaky and dreadful stuff. They get bored with the dull stuff, like making sure your kids have shoes and plumbing and your population has civil rights.

The future is unwritten. Cyberspace is the funhouse mirror of our own society, reflects our values and our faults, sometimes in terrifying exaggerations. It doesn't matter who you are today, if you don't show up in that mirror you are just not going to matter very much. Our kids have to show up in the mirror.

The ruins of the unsustainable are the 21st century's frontier.

There's one thing worse than being young and full of stormy tantrums, and that's being old and backward-looking and crotchety.

They stole our revolution and now we're stealing it back and selling it to Yahoo.

To me, 'sustainability' means a situation in which your descendants are able to confront their own problems, rather than the ones you exported to them.

Unlike human beings, computers possess the truly profound stupidity of the inanimate.

War as Napoleon knew it is just not possible any more. However, we're very unlikely to accept or recognize world peace even when we get it.

We might be on the brink of an apocalypse if, instead of poor people with suicide bombs killing middle class people, middle-class people with suicide bombs started killing rich guys.

World-changing marvels to us, are only wallpaper to our children.

You give a guy a license to steal, you've got to expect him to use it.

You should never be surprised if your most effective, most influential writing is writing no publisher will pay for.

You're always going to be followed by your data shadow, which is forming from thousands and thousands of little leaks and tributaries of information.

Categories: Bruce Sterling, Quotes of the day

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Exchange of the day

Published Saturday, April 13, 2013 @ 5:55 PM EDT
Apr 13 2013

"Hey, we might be able to see the Northern Lights tonight."

"What time?"

"They're saying 8, but it may be as late as midnight."

"Cool. What direction do you look?"

"Uh... Northern Lights? I'm guessing north."

(Some sources are saying that due to a large coronal mass ejection on the Sun this past Thursday, that areas as far south as Pennsylvania may be able to observe the Aurora Borealis this evening.)

Categories: Observations, Weather

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Another giant departs

Published Saturday, April 13, 2013 @ 6:00 AM EDT
Apr 13 2013

Jonathan Harshman Winters III (November 11, 1925 – April 11, 2013)

When the otherwise forgettable The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh arrived here in 1979, my father was working the "extra list" at Teamsters Local #249. One afternoon they received a call from Lorimar Productions, and my dad- who had been told by a friendly union steward to make certain he was there that day- found himself with a lucrative temporary gig as Jonathan Winters' chauffeur.

At the end of the shoot, the locals working on the production received an official "Fish That Saved Pittsburgh" belt buckle, which I still have.

They also received an unpleasant surprise years later, when they learned Lorimar had never paid payroll taxes to the Feds, which caused my father and others much grief when they applied for Social Security benefits.

The situation resulted in my Dad's monthly stipend being a few bucks less than it should have been. But he didn't complain. "I spent three weeks driving around with Jonathan Winters," he recalled with a smile. "That was worth it."


"More influential than successful, Mr. Winters circled the comic heavens tracing his own strange orbit, an object of wonder and admiration to his peers."
- William Grimes, The New York Times


15 of the funniest people on earth died yesterday - and they all lived inside of Jonathan Winters.
-Denis Leary


(from Entertainment Weekly)

Bill Cosby was once asked whom he would choose if he had $50 in his pocket to buy a ticket to see only one stand-up comedian, live, in their prime. The comic legend barely took a breath before answering, "Jonathan Winters will make every last one of us stand there in awe."

Winters, who died [April 11] at the age of 87, was a master of voices, mimicry, and right-field spontaneity. "What I do is verbal paintings," he told National Public Radio in 2011. "I paint a picture. Hopefully you'll see the characters and what they're doing and what they're saying."

For decades after he became famous for his comedy albums, he was a coveted late-night guest because no one- not the audience, not hosts like Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, likely not Winters himself- knew what he was going to do. An evening with Winters on the sofa was can't-miss television, and a generation of comics that followed him- like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey- marveled and were inspired by his daring, try-anything antics.

Winters often joked about the mental hospital, playing slightly disturbed characters who belonged to or claimed to have escaped from the asylum. He was drawing from personal experience. At the height of his early fame, he had committed himself to a mental hospital and went on to live with what he diagnosed as bipolar disorder. "I need that pain- whatever it is- to call upon it from time to time, no matter how bad it was," he told NPR.

So there was a bit of the tortured genius to him, but his comedy was rarely dark. It was manic and sly. Cosby compared Winters' talent to jazz master John Coltrane, a improvisational artist who could inflate whole stories and characters off a single verbal cue. He was unstoppable, unpredictable, and inimitable.

(YouTube videos: Jonathan Winters on The Jack Paar Show)

Jonathan Winters quotes:

God is in my head, but the devil is in my pants.

I couldn't wait for success so I went ahead without it.

If God had really intended man to fly, He’d make it easier to get to the airport.

If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it!

Improvisation is about taking chances, and I was ready to take chances.

Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.

Now the freaks are on television, the freaks are in the movies. And it's no longer the sideshow, it's the whole show. The colorful circus and the clowns and the elephants, for all intents and purposes, are gone, and we're dealing only with the freaks.

When you wear so many hats in society, you never know who you are. That's the beauty of it. Because once you find out who you are, you're screwed.

You come into this world, not knowing who you are, and sometimes, if you live long enough, you go out not knowing who you are.

Categories: Jonathan Winters, Passages, Video, YouTube

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Seventeen thousand

Published Friday, April 12, 2013 @ 11:05 AM EDT
Apr 12 2013

The KGB Quotations Database has reached 17,000 entries.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled ennui.

Categories: KGB, KGB Blog News, KGB Quotations Database

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Eligible for Social Security: David Letterman

Published Friday, April 12, 2013 @ 6:21 AM EDT
Apr 12 2013

David Letterman (born April 12, 1947) is an American television host and comedian. He hosts the late night television talk show, Late Show with David Letterman, broadcast on CBS. Letterman has been a fixture on late night television since the 1982 debut of Late Night with David Letterman on NBC. Letterman recently surpassed friend and mentor Johnny Carson for having the longest late-night hosting career on US television. (Click for full Wikipedia article.


Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television.

Fall is my favorite season in Los Angeles, watching the birds change color and fall from the trees.

I saw a robin redbreast in Central Park today, but it turned out to be a sparrow with an exit wound.

I'm a magical being. Take off your bra. (From Top Ten Elven Pickup Lines)

Ivory Soap: 99.44 percent pure, .56 percent deadly radon gas.

New York now leads the world's great cities in the number of people around whom you shouldn't make a sudden move.

The next time, for God's sake, let's at least do a background check before we make someone President.

The Post Office is raising the price of postage. Hey, ammo's expensive.

There's no business like show business, but there are several businesses like accounting.

Traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines.

Two creative spirits in a relationship, I don't think that's the best way to go.

When you go to the mind reader, do you get half price?

You look into his eyes, and you get the feeling someone else is driving.

Categories: David Letterman, Eligible for Social Security, Quotes of the day, TV

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Published Thursday, April 11, 2013 @ 6:48 AM EDT
Apr 11 2013

When it's 6 am and I'm staring at a blank screen, sometimes I'll just jump over to my database quote page and stick in a word fragment. Today, it's "confus":

Advertising is 85 percent confusion and 15 percent commission.
-Fred Allen

All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.
-John Adams

Ants are so much like human beings as to be an embarrassment. They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves, engage in child labor, exchange information ceaselessly. They do everything but watch television.
-Lewis Thomas

As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.
-Gore Vidal

Confusing monogamy with morality has done more to destroy the conscience of the human race than any other error.
-George Bernard Shaw

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
-Henry Miller

Confusion is always the most honest response.
-Marty Indik

Confusion not only reigns, it pours.

Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.
-Erma Bombeck

Don't confuse having a career with having a life.
-Hillary Rodham Clinton

Don't confuse the water with the pump.
-Tom Wolfe

Fifty states, and I had to go and pick Confusion.

[G]od does plays dice... [and] he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can't be seen.
-Stephen Hawking

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.
-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hindsight is 20/20, but don't confuse it with insight.

I have nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.
-Jack Kerouac

I'm as confused as a baby at a topless bar.

If I look confused it's because I'm thinking.
-Samuel Goldwyn

It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.
-Arthur Schopenhauer

Lots of folks confuse bad management with destiny.
-Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard

Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.
-Douglas Adams

May the Forces of Evil become confused on the way to your house.
-George Carlin

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

Never confuse movement with action.
-Ernest Hemingway

Never confuse the faith with the supposedly faithful.
-Randy K. Milholland

Official Project Stages: (1) Uncritical Acceptance. (2) Wild Enthusiasm. (3) Dejected Disillusionment. (4) Total Confusion. (5) Search for the Guilty. (6) Punishment of the Innocent. (7) Promotion of the Non-participants.

On the one hand, the Republicans are telling industrial workers that the high cost of food in the cities is due to this government's farm policy. On the other hand, the Republicans are telling the farmers that the high cost of manufactured goods on the farm is due to this government's labor policy. That's plain hokum. It's an old political trick: ”If you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em.“ But this time it won't work.
-Harry S. Truman

One learns in life to keep silent and draw one's own confusions.
-Cornelia Otis Skinner

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.
-A.J. Liebling

Perfection of means and confusion of goals seem- in my opinion- to characterize our age.
-Albert Einstein

Perhaps misguided moral passion is better than confused indifference.
-Jean Iris Murdoch

Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness.
-James Thurber

The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven't changed in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don't change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.
-Doris Lessing

The modern city is ugly not because it is a city but because it is not enough of a city, because it is a jungle, because it is confused and anarchic, and surging with selfish and materialistic energies.
-G.K. Chesterton

The past is gone; the present is confusing; and the future scares the hell out of me.
-David L. Stein

The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.
-Molly Ivins

Truth is eternal, knowledge is changeable. It is disastrous to confuse them.
-Madeleine L'Engle

Vietnam was the first war ever fought without any censorship. Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.
-William C. Westmoreland

We are a purely idealistic Nation, but let no one confuse our idealism with weakness.
-Jimmy Carter

We have confused the free with the free and easy.
-Adlai E. Stevenson II

We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
-Stewart Udall

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the loyal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.
-Edward R. Murrow

When the search for truth is confused with political advocacy, the pursuit of knowledge is reduced to the quest for power.
-Alston Chase

You have confused a war on religion with not getting everything you want.
-Jon Stewart

Categories: Quotes of the day

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No problem...

Published Wednesday, April 10, 2013 @ 8:57 AM EDT
Apr 10 2013

Our 15-year-old Sheltie, Lucy, has a tendency to snore. Our 16-year-old cat, Pumpkin, applies a practical solution.

Categories: Cats, Dogs, KGB Family

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Happy birthday to the master

Published Tuesday, April 09, 2013 @ 7:54 AM EDT
Apr 09 2013

Happy birthday to one of my few personal heroes: Thomas Andrew Lehrer (born April 9, 1928). He is 29.44 today. (He always gives his birthday in Celsius.)


"Lehrer was able to express and to expose, in humorous verse and lilting music, some of the most powerful dangers of the second half of the century... Many of the causes of which Lehrer sang became, three decades later, part of the main creative impulse of mankind.
-Sir Martin Gilbert, historian, who in 1999 named Lehrer one of the ten great figures of the previous 100 years.


Observations from Tom Lehrer:

Alas, irreverence has been subsumed by mere grossness, at least in the so-called mass media. What we have now- to quote myself at my most pretentious- is a nimiety of scurrility with a concomitant exiguity of taste. For example, the freedom (hooray!) to say almost anything you want on television about society's problems has been co-opted (alas!) by the freedom to talk instead about flatulence, orgasms, genitalia, masturbation, etc., etc., and to replace real comment with pop-culture references and so-called "adult" language. Irreverence is easy- what's hard is wit.

Always predict the worst and you be hailed as a prophet.

Base eight is just like base ten, really... if you're missing two fingers.

I don't like people to get the idea that I have to do this for a living. I mean, it isn't as though I had to do this, you know, I could be making, oh, $3,000 a year, just teaching.

I feel that if a person can't communicate, the very least he can do is to shut up.

I feel that if any songs are going to come out of World War III, we'd better start writing them now.

I have never used an illegal drug in my life. Also, I have never told a lie.

I never got a Ph.D. I wanted to be a graduate student all my life and they wanted me to be a Ph.D. These two goals were incompatible.

I think there is a lingering desire for literacy and I pride myself on being literate to the point of pretentiousness. I still say “whom” a lot. Why say “since” when you can say “in as much as?”

I'd like to take you now, on wings of song as it were, and try and help you forget for a while your drab, wretched lives.

I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that!

If anyone disagrees with anything I say, I am quite prepared to not only retract it, but also to deny under oath I ever said it.

If you've been to Cincinatti, there's no need to go to Cleveland.

In my youth... there were certain words you couldn't say in front of a girl; now you can say them, but you can't say “girl.”

Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it depends upon what you put into it.

No one is more dangerous than someone who thinks he has the Truth. To be an atheist is almost as arrogant as to be a fundamentalist. But then again, I can get pretty arrogant.

On my income tax 1040 it says “Check this box if you are blind.” I wanted to put a check mark about three inches away.

Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
But that couldn't happen again.
We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen
And they've hardly bothered us since then.
MLF Lullaby (1964)

Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Self-indulgence is better than no indulgence at all.

Categories: Quotes of the day, Tom Lehrer

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Saying goodbye

Published Monday, April 08, 2013 @ 12:38 AM EDT
Apr 08 2013

In life one has to go to the funerals of the people we like and the birthdays of those we don't.
-Wieslaw Brudzinski

I'm attending my cousin Mary Lou's funeral today.

I have no words.

See you tomorrow.

YouTube video: Mary Lou Siesky
(Here I Am Lord," by the Purple Daisies,
Windover Hills UMC)

Categories: KGB Family, Passages, YouTube

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Quote of the day

Published Sunday, April 07, 2013 @ 6:19 AM EDT
Apr 07 2013

After a certain distance, every step we take in life we find the ice growing thinner below our feet.
-Robert Louis Stevenson

Categories: Passages, Quotes of the day

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Mary Lou

Published Saturday, April 06, 2013 @ 7:56 AM EDT
Apr 06 2013

My cousin, Mary Lou (Kirmeyer) Siesky, unexpectedly passed away yesterday at her home in Greencastle, PA. She was 66.

Originally from Homestead, she was married to Milton J. Siesky for 46 years. She was the daughter of the late Edward and Dorothy Kirmeyer; sister of Bonnie (Dr. Reynolds) Brissenden, and Patricia (Louis) Theriault; godmother of Hollie (Richard) Ulanowicz and Halie Theriault; and niece of Dorothy Norris.

Family and friends will be received on Monday, April 8 from 10 am until 1 pm at the George Irvin Green Funeral Home Inc., 3511 Main Street, Munhall, PA, where services will be held on Monday, April 8 at 1:30 pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light The Night Walk, via Adam Bence, 3434 York St., Munhall, PA 15120.

Categories: KGB Family, Passages

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I know it is coming, and I do not fear it...

Published Friday, April 05, 2013 @ 4:27 AM EDT
Apr 05 2013

I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime's memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

I don't expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. "Ask someone how they feel about death," he said, "and they'll tell you everyone's gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that's not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you're really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don't really exist. I might be gone at any given second."

Me too, but I hope not. I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don't feel that way. "Faith" is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow's "Herzog," I say, "Look for me in the weather reports."

Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. I know a priest whose eyes twinkle when he says, "You go about God's work in your way, and I'll go about it in His."

What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins' theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.

O'Rourke's had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:

I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

That does a pretty good job of summing it up. "Kindness" covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

One of these days I will encounter what Henry James called on his deathbed "the distinguished thing." I will not be conscious of the moment of passing. In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn't so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn't finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn't be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive.

Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally- not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I'm not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I'm talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven't many of us experienced that? Come on, haven't you? What goes on happens at a level not accessible to scientists, theologians, mystics, physicists, philosophers or psychiatrists. It's a human kind of a thing.

Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, "You'd better cry at my memorial service." I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named "Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh." Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself "a simple worshiper of the external Buddha." Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:

Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map.

Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, "Not by foot, I hope!"

-Roger Ebert, from his autobiography "Life Itself: A Memoir."

More at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Categories: Movies, Passages, Roger Ebert

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Speaking of weather...

Published Thursday, April 04, 2013 @ 6:58 AM EDT
Apr 04 2013

Climate is what you expect. Weather is what you get.
-Robert A. Heinlein

Diplomats are useful only in fair weather. As soon as it rains they drown in every drop.
-Charles de Gaulle

Do not videotape your child in the bathtub. Do not name your child after a Scandinavian deity or any aspect of the weather.
-Daniel Menaker

Don't knock the weather. If it didn't change once in a while, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation.
-Frank McKinney (Kin) Hubbard

Each of us makes his own weather, determines the color of the skies in the emotional universe which he inhabits.
-Fulton J. Sheen

Friendship-A ship big enough to carry two in fair weather, but only one in foul.
-Ambrose Bierce

Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather become frozen: even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.
-Leonardo da Vinci

Isn't it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?
-Kelvin Throop, III

No matter how rich you become, how famous or powerful, when you die the size of your funeral will still pretty much depend on the weather.
-Michael Pritchard

Running is a four-season sport. There is no such thing as bad weather, only timid souls.

The economy depends about as much on economists as the weather does on weather forecasters.
-Jean-Paul Kauffmann

The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.
-(postcard, unattributed

There is no such thing as bad weather. Only bad clothes.
-John Foster

Weather forecasts are horoscopes with numbers.

When I get sick of what men do, I have only to walk a few steps in another direction to see what spiders do. Or what the weather does. This sustains me very well indeed.
-E.B. White

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
-Bob Dylan

Categories: Quotes of the day, Weather

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Published Wednesday, April 03, 2013 @ 3:05 AM EDT
Apr 03 2013

If a pretty picture and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.


Happy 15th anniversary to Dr. Larry Kersten and the good folk at Despair, Inc., whose "Demotivators" line and calendars has restored my faith in the power of positive pessimism.


As long as we have each other, we'll never run out of problems.

Attitudes are contagious. Mine might kill you.

Before you attempt to beat the odds, be sure you could survive the odds beating you.

Dreams are like rainbows. Only idiots chase them.

Every dark cloud has a silver lining, but lightning kills hundreds of people each year who try to find it.

Government: If you think the problems we create are bad, just wait until you see our solutions.

Get to work. You aren't being paid to believe in the power of your dreams.

If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style.

If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, you're not alone. And yet you are alone. So very alone.

If you want to get to the top, prepare to kiss a lot of the bottom.

Consulting: If you're not part of the solution, there's good money to be made in prolonging the problem.

Increase success by lowering expectations.

It could be the purpose of your life is only to serve as a warning to others.

It takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile, but it doesn't take any to just sit there with a dumb look on your face.

It's amazing how much easier it is for a team to work together when no one has any idea where they're going.

It's best to avoid standing between a competitive jerk and his goals.

It's lonely at the top. But it's comforting to look down upon everyone at the bottom.

Leaders are like eagles. We don't have either of them here.

Luck can't last a lifetime, unless you die young.

Mediocrity: It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent, but you'd be a fool to withhold that from your superiors.

Meetings: None of us is as dumb as all of us.

Not all pain is gain.

Not everyone gets to be an astronaut when they grow up.

Pain is just weakness leaving the body. Sometimes your spirit tags along with it.

Procrastination: Hard work often pays off after time, but laziness always pays off now.

Quitters never win, winners never quit, but those that never win AND never quit are idiots.

Sometimes the best solution to a morale problem is just to fire all of the unhappy people.

Success is a journey, not a destination, so stop running.

Teach every child you meet the importance of forgiveness. It's our only hope of surviving their wrath once they realize just how badly we've screwed things up for them.

That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.

The best leaders inspire by example. When that's not an option, brute intimidation works pretty well, too.

The downside to being better than everyone else is that people tend to assume you're pretentious.

The harder you try, the dumber you look.

The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you.

The tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut by the lawn mower.

There are no stupid questions, but there a lot of inquisitive idiots.

There comes a time when every team must learn to make individual sacrifices.

There is an island of opportunity in the middle of every difficulty. Miss that, though, and you're pretty much doomed.

There is no joy greater than soaring high on the wings of your dreams, except maybe the joy of watching a dreamer who has nowhere to land but in the ocean of reality.

Until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore, you will not know the terror of being forever lost at sea.

When birds fly in the right formation, they need only exert half the effort. Even in nature, teamwork results in collective laziness.

When the winds of change blow hard enough, the most trivial of things can turn into a deadline projectile.

You can do anything you set your mind to when you have vision, determination, and an endless supply of expendable labor.

You'll always miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take, and, statistically speaking, 99 percent of the shots you do.

Your role may be thankless, but if you're willing to give it your all, you just might bring success to those who outlast you.

Categories: Despair, Inc., Quotes of the day

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45 years ago today, things changed.

Published Tuesday, April 02, 2013 @ 12:42 AM EDT
Apr 02 2013

Remember when technology was fun?

The future ain't what is used to be...

(YouTube video: the official trailer for Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, which premiered 45 years ago, on April 2, 1968.)

A linear projection into the future of any science or technology is like a form of propaganda- often persuasive, almost always wrong.
-Pamela McCorduck

All scientifically possible technology and social change predicted in science fiction will come to pass, but none of it will work properly.
-Neil Gaiman

All technology should be assumed guilty until proven innocent.
-David Ross Brower

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
-James Klass

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Cheese in an aerosol can is the greatest advance in technology since fire.
-James Angove

Each fall at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, football fans cheer for their favorite irrational number: “Cosine, secant, tangent, sine, three point one four one five nine!”
-Bruce Watson

Engineers are always honest in matters of technology and human relationships. That's why it's a good idea to keep engineers away from ustomers, romantic interests, and other people who can't handle the truth.
(From Engineers Explained)

Even though today's technology provides us with mountains of data, it is useless without judgment.
-Felix G. Rohatyn

Everyone has a right to a university degree in America, even if it's in Hamburger Technology.
-Clive James

For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three.
-Alice Kahn

For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.
-Richard P. Feynman

Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
-Buckminster Fuller

I may be just an empty flesh terminal relying on technology for all y ideas, memories and relationships, but I am confident that all of that, everything that makes me a unique human being, is still out there, somewhere, safe in the theoretical storage space owned by giant ulti-national corporations.
-Stephen Colbert

If the Catholic church couldn't stop Galileo, then governments won't be able to stop things now.
(re: regulation of information technology.)
-Carlo de Benedetti

If we had a reliable way to label our toys good and bad, it would be easy to regulate technology wisely. But we can rarely see far enough ahead to know which road leads to damnation. Whoever concerns himself with big technology, either to push it forward or to stop it, is gambling in human lives.
-Freeman Dyson

If we had had the right technology back then, you would have seen Eva Braun on the Donahue show and Adolf Hitler on Meet the Press.
-Ed Turner

In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are now the same thing.
-Douglas Adams

[Information Technology] people are so hypnotized by the technology hey don't look for real results.
-Peter Drucker

Levitt's First Law of Information Technology:
If it's free, adopt it.

[N]either technology nor efficiency can acquire more time for you, because time is not a thing you have lost. It is not a thing you ever had.
-James Gleick

Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road.
-Stewart Brand

One can prove or refute anything at all with words. Soon people will perfect language technology to such an extent that they'll be proving with mathematical precision that twice two is seven.
-Anton Chekhov

Screams erupted at a nearby hotel, where Microsoft founder Bill Gates was addressing an education and technology conference.
(Associated Press report of a Seattle earthquake)

Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we need not experience it.
-Max Frisch

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.

Technology is really civilization, let's face it.
-Arthur C. Clarke

Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.
-John Tudor

Technology today is the campfire around which we tell our stories. There's this attraction to light and to this kind of power, which is both warm and destructive.
-Laurie Anderson

The Bible, it seems certain, was the work of sand-strewn men and women who thought the earth was flat and for whom a wheelbarrow would have been a breathtaking example of emerging technology.
-Sam Harris

The human race has today the means for annihilating itself-either in a fit of complete lunacy, i.e., in a big war, by a brief fit of destruction, or by careless handling of atomic technology, through a slow process of poisoning and of deterioration in its genetic structure.
-Max Born

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology. And it is terrifically dangerous, and it is now approaching a point of crisis overall.
-E.O. Wilson

There is an evil tendency underlying all our technology- the tendency to do what is reasonable even when it isn't any good.
-Robert Pirsig

We are stuck with technology when what we really want is just stuff that works.
-Douglas Adams

We have lots of information technology. We just don't have any information.
(New Yorker cartoon caption)
-Sydney J. Harris

We've arranged a civilization in which most crucial elements profoundly depend on science and technology. We have also arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. This is a prescription for disaster. We might get away with it for a while, but sooner or later this combustible mixture of ignorance and power is going to blow up in our faces.
-Carl Sagan

While modern technology has given people powerful new communication tools, it apparently can do nothing to alter the fact that many people have nothing useful to say.
-Lee Gomes

Categories: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, Quotes of the day, Stanley Kubrick, Technology, Video, YouTube

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Quote of the day

Published Monday, April 01, 2013 @ 2:09 AM EDT
Apr 01 2013

I know everything will work out in the end, but just once, couldn't something work out in the beginning?
-Rose Auerbach (@RoseKnows)

Categories: Quotes of the day, Rose Auerbach

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