Very Well Read

Quotations from, and the occasional reflection on, things that I have read.

What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

Cross-posted from my other blog.

I was quite excited when I first heard that Malcolm Gladwell had a new book out. I received Outliers from Sarah & Dave for Christmas last year, which I devoured while I was in Mexico and soon after I discovered the free e-audiobooks at the library, I quickly devoured Blink and The Tipping Point too. Love, love, loved all three of those books. So when I saw that Gladwell’s new book, What the Dog Saw, was at the library as an e-audiobook, I signed right up to get a copy.

After having read it through, all I can give it is resounding “meh.” When I first got the book, I didn’t realize that it was just a collection of his old essays. His other books each had an overarching theory for which the book built a case. And while this book wasn’t intended to be that way ((although it’s roughly structured into three separate “sections” of somewhat related essays, there isn’t really a coherent story in there, at least not as far as I could see)), I found it much less compelling than his other books. The stuff if in the essays was interesting, but it didn’t seem to go anywhere. You can definitely see glimpses of his other works – like the essay on how interviewers make snap judgments on people, which is clearly related to Blink – but I already read that stuff in his other books. Overall, I just felt like this book was put out with the thought “Hey, Malcolm Gladwell books sell like hotcakes – throw one together as fast as you can!” I guess I should have realized when What The Dog Saw was released this year, only a year after Outliers, that he couldn’t have written a whole book of new material and had it published that quickly!

Here’s hoping the next Gladwell book doesn’t come out for a few years!

Eat That Frog!

Cross-posted from my other blog.

Hot off the heels of listening to my first audiobook in the car on the way to and from work, I decided to see if the library had the next book on my list to read: Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy. This is the one I found on in e-audio format!

Eat That Frog! 2nd EditionEat That Frog is a book about not procrastinating. Basically, it tells you to stop procrastinating already. I mean, it did have some tips in it – the main one, which he states over and over again – is to figure out which task is your main priority (i.e., which task if going to get you the biggest and best results) and then do it. Make it the first thing you do in the morning – don’t dilly dally checking your email, chatting to co-workers, or doing other low (or no) value tasks. Just do it. I was hoping there would be some sure fire way to kick my butt out of procrastination mode, but this book just told me to set my mind to it and then do it. But I wanted a magic bullet!!

Also, he does say a few things that are just a bit ridiculous:

  • he claimes you should get 8 hours of sleep a night, at least 30 minutes of exercise per day1, read a full hour every day on your field to become more expert, take a full day per week off from any work, go into work a little bit early and stay a little bit late everyday, eat healthy (no junk food – meaning you’ll spend a fair amount of time grocery shopping, cooking & cleaning up after)…. it just doesn’t seem there’s enough hours in the day to do all he says
  • he also contradicts himself – at one point, he talks about spending time with family & friends as being the most important thing – it’s why you want to work more efficiently, so you’ll have time to socialize and be part of the community. Then he admonishes you not to “waste time” talking with your co-workers.
  • It seems like he makes up numbers. I mean, this might just be the academic in me coming out (why aren’t you citing your sources?? Oh right, it’s a book for the general public, not the New England Journal of Medicine!), but he throws around things like “doing X will make you 2, 3 or even 4 x more effective!” and “50% of a worker’s time is spent doing Y!” without every referencing where this comes from2.
  • He takes a page out of the Stuart Smalley handbook, pretty much telling you that you should be saying “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darnit, people like me! Except that I don’t talk with any of them at work because they are not a value use of my time.”

Also, one of his suggestions was to listen to education audio programs, such as this one, while in your car. The average worker “wastes” 20 billion hours a year driving, so why not make it productive by learning stuff? And I was all “I *am* listening to this in my car!” And then I felt superior.

In fairness, since reading3 this book, I have decided to make more of a conscious effort to do my most important task first thing in the morning (instead of my usual email checking) and to even have my e-newsletters not show up in my inbox, so I don’t get distracted by them and can scan through them all at once, in a more efficient way, rather than being constantly jolted out of my important work when I see “ooh, there’s something in my inbox! Must check now!!” It’s not like I didn’t know that I should do this, but I decided to actually challenge myself – since apparently no one is about to give me a magic anti-procrastination bullet!

1Citing the old recommendations. Current recommendations are to exercise an hour a day, so he’ll need to update that.
2Note to self: get hands on a hardcopy of this book and check for references!
3er, listening to

Getting To Yes

Cross-posted from my other blog.http://www.latepass.com/images/latepass_0743526937.jpg

At my new job, everyone has to put together performance plans to plan and track their performance. The majority of the plan revolves around planning the projects you are working on, but there is also a part for planning your own professional development. There are a number of suggested “leadership competencies” on which you can work and they even provided suggested resources (e.g., online modules, courses, books) to help you develop in your chosen areas. In the area of “communication skills” – something I like to think is one of my strengths – one of the books on the list caught my eye: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Because, although I’m fairly strong on communication generally, I suck at negotiation. I hate it. The thought of it stresses me out. My image of negotiation is two opposing sides that hate each other, each trying to screw the other over to get as much as they possibly can for themselves. Yuck. My strengthes in communication, I feel, have to do with things like active listening, respect, fairness, objectivity and caring for other people. I don’t want to screw other people over, but I also don’t want to let them screw me over. You can see where my distaste for all things negotiation-y comes from.

But since the point of professional development is, well, development, I added reading this book to my list of things I will accomplish this fiscal year in pursuit of more skillz.

Much to my surprise, I really liked the book! It wasn’t about trying to screw over the other guy at all!

What I learned, in a nutshell, from this book was:

  • separate the people from the problem – remember that the person/people you are negotiating with are people and you have to take their feelings/motives/interests into account. And if you separate the people from the substance of what you are negotiating over, you will be able to deal with both the people and the problem in a more effective way
  • focus on people’s interests, not on rigidly defending a position – Getting to the heart of what each side wants (i.e., focusing on interests) allows you to come up with creative solutions that can address both sides’ interests because it opens up possibilities that you would not even consider if you were strictly saying “I want this” and “you want that.”
  • have objective standards, because they are much harder to argue against than arbitrary positions. Trying to negotiate a pay raise or a house price? Find standards of what other people get paid for comparable work (or paid for a comparable house) and what would make another job (or house) comparable and that will make it easier to defend your offer and reason with the other side.
  • know your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) – think about what the alternative will be if you can come to an agreement with this party. Will you be able to easily sell your house to someone else? Get another job? Knowing what your alternative is will help you decide if you want to keep negotiating or not.

And, if you can believe this, before I even finished reading1 the book, I had used its principles to negotiate a contract! By focusing on interests instead of positions for a contract I was in the process of negotiating, I was able to come up with a creative solution that satisfied both my interests and the client’s interests, despite us being quite far apart in our intial proposals (and if we had merely tried to negotiate from those positions, we either never would have come to an agreement or one of us would have had to make major concessions to the other and been quite unhappy about it). Also, I knew what my BATNA was (as I have a full-time job, I didn’t need to have the contract, so my BATNA was to decline the contract unless I was happy with the offer), which helped me to know what I was willing to accept.

Also, by total random coincidence, just the other day, while searching for some mind mapping software, I came across this mind map that summarizes the book:

Anyway, I totally think this book is worth the read. It’s called Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton.

1Well, listening to it, since it’s on CD.

I Am STILL A Delinquent

Wow. My last post on here was nearly eight months ago and it was about how deliquent I am for not having posted in nearly a year. And a list of all the books I read in that year that I was totally going to blog about. How embarassing.  This posting is pretty much just some additions to that list and another well-meaning promise, which I’m sure I’ll never actually come through on, to eventually blog about them

More Books I’ve Read:

  • The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (in the middle of this right now)
  • The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (just started

Books I’ve “Read” Via Audiobook:

  • Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In by Roger Fisher
  • Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Eat That Frog by Brian Tracey
  • Today Matters by John C. Maxwell
  • Rich Women: A Book on Investing for Women by Kim Kiyosaki
  • The Now Habit by Neile Fiore, PhD (in the middle of this one right now)
  • 50 Success Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden (downloaded to my iPod, to listen to once I’ve finished The Now Habit)

On My “Wish List” From the Vancouver Public Library:

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen

I am a deliquent!

Wow, I haven’t written on here in more than a year!  It’s not that I haven’t been reading books.  I just don’t seem to have written about any of them in 2008! I think a big part of the problem was that it took me a really, really long time to read Infinite Jest and once I was done it, I felt like I needed to read other books rather than spending my time writing a summary of it, which would have undoubtedly taken me several more months.

In an attempt to make myself feel better, I’m going to list all the books I remember reading in 2008 under the (probably misguided) hope that I will eventually get around to writing posts about them.  I’m sure I’ll have forgotten some of them, so I will add to the list as I remember others.  Here, in no particular order, are the books I read in 2008:

  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
  • The Pleasure’s All Mine by Joan Kelly
  • What to Eat by Marion Nestle
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
  • The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
  • Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling
  • The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn (just started)
  • Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti
  • Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind The Pay Gap-And What Women Can Do About It by Warren Farrell

Textbooks

  • Principles of Nutrition Assessment by Rosalind Gibson
  • Research Design: Qualitative, Quantiative, and Mixed Methods Approaches by John W. Cresswell
  • Best Practices for Teaching Statistics and Research Methods in the Behavioral Sciences, edited by Dana S. Dunn, Randolph A. Smith, Bernard C. Beins
  • Philosophy And The Sciences of Exercise, Health And Sport: Critical Perspectives On Research Methods, edited by Mike McNamee
  • Brain-based Teaching For All Subjects: Patterns To Promote Learning by Madlon T. Laster. (only a bit, because it turned out to be about elementary school teaching, whereas I was expecting it to be about university teaching)
  • Conducting & Reading Research in Health & Human Performance by Baumgartner & Hensley (only partway through)

The Action Heroine’s Handbook

I bought this book for my sister for Christmas. Stumbling across it in a bookstore one day, I saw the tagline on the cover:

How to win a catfight, drink someone under the table, choke a man with your bare thighs, and dozens of other TV and movie skills. [emphasis added]

… and I knew I had to buy this book for my sis.

Being the curious type, and having bought this book months before Christmas, I just may have flipped through [translation: read] this book before I wrapped it up. Overall, I have to say I was a wee bit disappointed. Although I did learn how to choke a man with my bare thighs, and that may come in handy someday.

Worick, Jennifer & Borgenicht, Joe. The Action Herione’s Handbook. New York: Quirk Books, 2003.

minority report

I saw this book while browing around the library and decided to pick it up because I enjoyed the movie. That, and I was enamoured with the way this book flips up to open, instead of horizontally.

Minority Report is really just a short story and so was quite a quick read. And I was rather surprised by the story, because it was quite different from the movie, in fact…. oh wait, I suppose I should put a spoiler alert here before I say more. In fact, the story sort of gives the exact opposite message to what you get from the movie. In the movie, Tom Cruise, ur, John Anderton decides to not kill anyone, thus proving that the whole PreCrime system is not infalliable and innocent people are being arrested; we do have free choice and our fate is not predetermined. In the story, however, Anderton makes the decision in the end to kill the person who the majority report says he is going to kill – the moral of the story: PreCrime works! Oh ya, and there are two minority reports, not just one, and they are based on the fact that Anderton sees the majority report (although you can hardly call it a “majority” when it is just one of three reports) and that changes the future. When asked if there is any flaw in the system, Anderton says, “It can happen in only one circumstance. My case was unique, since I had access to the data. It could happen again, but only to the next Police Comissioner” (p. 103) So, people really don’t have any choice, the future is predictable. All in all, I’d have to say I liked the movie better.

A few more points I found interesting:

  • In the short story, Anderton is bald, fat and on the brink of retirment; in the movie, Anderton is played by Tom Cruise. Simlarily, Donna, the female precog, is 45 years and the precogs are all hideously “deformed and retarded” (p. 9); in the movie, they are young and attractive. Hollywood just couldn’t have that!
  • Anytime you read a “futuristic” piece that talks about how something is “transcribed on conventional punchcards, and ejected into various coded slots” (p. 8) and data stored on “tapes” (p. 57) you know someone missed a mark.
  • Similarily, I find it amusing that Dick thought that in the future, people would not only be listening to radios (I’m pretty sure I’m the only person still doing that!), but that they’d use terms like “a priori” (p. 48) on a radio broadcast for the general public.

Dick, Philip K. The minority report. New York : Carol Publishing Group, 1991.

The Picture of Dorian Gray


The Picture of Dorian Gray is probably my favourite book. I mean, it’s hard to pick a single favourite book, but if I had to pick one, if someone held a gun to my head and forced me to pick a favourite novel, I’m pretty sure “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is what would come slipping from my lips. So when I saw TPoDG in the library the other day, I couldn’t resist re-reading it for the umpteenth time, but this time taking down notes for posting here on Very Well Read.

I’ve been known to make a joke about having a portrait hanging in the attic as the explanation for why I look younger than my age (making that joke far too often for some people’s liking) and I also did provide my ex with a quotation from TPoDG for his Honours English thesis… a thesis that he got 95% on. I’m not saying that he got the 95% because of my apt choice of quotation or anything…

Anyway. Without further adieu, here are the quotations:

  • “There is no. Such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are either well written, or badly written. That is all.” (preface)
  • “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.” (preface)
    And from the book itself:
  • “…there is only one thing in the world that is worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” (p. 2-3)
  • “But beauty, real beauty ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration and destroys the harmony of any face. The moment one sits down to think, one becomes all nose, or all forehead, or something horrid. Look at the successful men in any of the learned professions. How perfectly hideous they are! Except, of course, in the Church. But then in the Church they don’t think. A bishop keeps on saying at the age of eighty what he was told to say when he was a boy of eighteen, and as a natural consequence he always looks absolutely delightful.” (p. 3) – in this passge, Wilde is talking about art. He was an aesthete, believing in art for art’s sake, beauty for beauty’s sake. As he said in the preface, books are not moral or immoral, just well written or poorly written. By having Lord Henry say that thinking causes you to become ugly, he is using it as a metaphor for art – if you try to create art with meaning, it becomes ugly… art should be beautiful in and of itself. Of coures, by imbuing his novel with this type of meaning is quite ironic, as by putting meaning into his work of art, he is making it, in his opinion, not a great work of art. I also like the bit at the end of this passage about the Church being filled with non-thinkers, who just believe what they are told to believe.
  • “…none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.” (p. 9)
  • “…we all take such pains to over-educate ourselves. In the wild struggle for existence, we want to have something that endures, and so we fill our minds with rubbish and facts, in the silly hope of keeping our place. The thoroughly well-informed man – that is the modern ideal. And the mind of the thoroughly well-informed man is a dreadful thing. It is like a bric-à-brac shop, all monsters and dust, with everything priced above its proper value.” (p. 12) – I love this quotation and I’ve used it often in my education work – it fits well with my displeasure with the “memorize a bunch of useless facts and then regurgitate it in an exam” form that education usually takes.
  • “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.” (p. 19)
  • “The life that was to make his soul would mar his body.” (p. 25).
  • “It is the problem of slavery, and we try to solve it by amusing the slaves.” (p. 40) – this is the quotation of the aforementioned ex’s thesis. It was related, if my memory serves me, to the Matrix – how everyone is a slave and things like television, work, church, etc., etc. keep us under control and unaware of our slavery.
  • “She was a curious woman, whose dresses always looked as if they had been designed in a rage and put on in a tempest.” (p. 46)
  • “Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” (p. 47)
  • “As long as a woman can look ten years younger than her own daughter, she is perfectly satisfied.” (p.48)
  • Experience [...] was merely the name men give to their mistakes.” (p. 59)
  • “‘Marriage is hardly a thing one can do now and then, Harry.’

    “Except in America’…” (p. 75)

  • “But, surely, if one lives merely for one’s self, Harry, one pays a terrible price for doing so,’ suggested the painter.

    ‘Yes, we are overcharged for everything nowadays.” (p. 80)

  • Around p. 86-87, there is a description of howDorian turns from completely adoring the actress Sibyl Vane, to completely abhorring her. In this scene, Sibyl is acting the part of Juliet and she’s acting it terribly. She later tries to explain to Dorian that this is because once she had met and fallen in love with Dorian, the idea of pretending to be in love on stage seemed suddenly meaningless to her. Dorian, of course, will have none of it – he just does a complete 180. The whole thing reminded me of how flaky Romeo is (at the start of the play, he’s all in love with Rosaline, then slips to loving Juliet at the drop of the hat). Also, when Dorian tells her that she is no longer being a work of art to him, I found it reminscient of, just pages before, Basil saying that that Dorian is no longer the work of art that he once knew.
  • “It was perfectly true. The portrait had altered.” (p. 98) – this statement is so profound because it really is the turning point in Dorian’s life.

  • “There is luxury in self reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has the right to blame us.” (p. 99) – I can think of someone with this attitude.
  • “You come down here to console me. That is charming. You find me consoled, and you are furious!” (p. 114)
  • On pages 138-152, there are some really long, descriptive passages about jewels and music and fabrics that reminded me of American Psycho, where Bret Easton Ellis has page after page of description of clothes and music and skin care regimines. Patrick Bateman is sort of a 1980s version of a dandy, isn’t he?
  • Her capacity for family affection is extraordinary. When her third husband died, her hair turned quite gold from grief.” (p. 186)
  • ‘It is perfectly monstruous,’ he said, ‘the way people go about nowadays, saying things against one behind one’s back that are absolutely and entirely true.” (p. 187)
  • Don’t tell me that you have exhausted Life. When a man says that one know that Life has exhausted him.” (p. 188)”In the common world of fact the wicked were not published, nor the good rewarded. Success was given to the strong, failure thrust upon the weak.” (p. 209-210).
  • “And yet if it had been merely an illustion, how terrible it was to think that conscience could raise such fearful phantoms, and given them visible form, and make them move before one! What sort of life would his be, if day and night, shadows of his crime were to peer at him from silent corners, to mock him from secret places, to whisper in his ear as he sat at the feast, to wake him with icy fingers as he lay asleep! As the thought crept through his brain, he grew pale with terror, and the air seemed to him to have become suddenly colder.” (p. 210)

  • “I’m going to alter. I think I have altered.” (p. 220)
  • “Death is the only thing that ever terrifies me… one can survive everything nowadays except that.” (p. 222)
  • “To get back my youth I would do anything in the world, except take exercise, get up early, or be respectable.” (p. 226)
  • “The tragedy of being old is not that one is old, but that one is young.” (p. 226)
  • “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” (p. 228)

    And one last thing. I really didn’t like picture on the copy of this particular edition. Like *really* didn’t like it. The picture of Dorian’s portrait (look at the picture at the start of this posting) just totally freaked me out whenever I looked at it. So much so that I actually put a sticky note over it so that I wouldn’t have to look at it. As seen in this photo:

  • Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray. New York: Tor, 1999.

    Guns, Germs and Steel


    A while back, I read Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond. I’m sure I kept notes of stuff I found interesting, but I have no idea where those notes are*. Until I find them, here’s an interview of Jared Diamond by Stephen Colbert.

    UPdate (9 July 2008): I was able to embed a video from Comedy Central when I had this blog on Blogger. But I can’t seem to get it embed here. And we can no longer view Comedy Central online videos in Canada anyway, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

    *I also read his other book, Collapse, and have no idea where those notes are either.

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

    At long last I have finished my re-re-reading of the Hitchhiker’s 5-part trilogy, in reverse order, to grab my favourite lines from the books to put up here for all to see. I was recently at a blogging conference where one of the presenters discussed one of the functions of a blog as a “brain dump” – a place to put information so that you didn’t need to keep remembering it… it can be duly noted in an appropriate forum, which is searchable at a later date should the need arise, and thus the information no longer needed to clutter up one’s brain. I think this little book blog of mine fits that description. I have a terrible memory for books/movies, and although I generally remember if I liked a given book or movie, I’ll be damned if I can remember why I liked/disliked it, or really tell you anything about what happened in a book I’ve read or movie I’ve seen. This blog allows me to dump that info, before it disappears into the vast recesses of my grey matter, for later retrieval if necessary. And so, without further ado, I give you my favourite quotations from The Hitchhikers’s Guide to the Galaxy!

    • Obviously somebody had been appallingly incompetent and he hoped to God it wasn’t him” (p. 6)
    • He felt that his whole life was some kind of a dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it“(p. 15) – perhaps this is why I’m always trying to do amusing things… just in case my life is someone’s dream… I want it to be an entertaining one!
    • There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (p.23 )
    • The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.“(p. 28) – man, I love the way Adams plays with language like this
    • “[The President's] job is not to wield power by to draw attention away from it” (p. 32) – this book was published in 1979, but I think we can agree that this fits very well into the early 21st century
    • Ford’s father was the only man on the entire planet to survive the Great Collapsing Hrung Disaster, by an extraordinary coincidence that he was never able to satisfactorily explain. The whole episode was shrouded in deep mystery: in fact no one ever knew what a Hrung was or why it had chosen to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven particularly. Ford’s father, magnanimously waving aside the clouds of suspicion that had inevitably settled around him, came to live on Betelgeuse Five where he both fathered and uncled Ford; in memory of his now dead race he christened him in the ancient Praxibetel tongue.

      Because he never learned to say his original name, his father eventually die of shame, which is still a terminal disease in some parts of the Galaxy. The other kids at school nicknamed him Ix, which in the language of Betelgeuse Five translates as ‘boy who is not able satisfactorily to explain what a Hrung is, nor why it should choose to collapse on Betelgeuse Seven.” (p. 41) – I love that he “both fathered and uncled Ford”… when does anyone ever use “uncle” as a verb? And also that he literally died of shame! Again with the playing with the language.

    • ‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse and about to die from asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wished I had listened to what my mother told me when I was young.’

      ‘Why, what did she tell you?’

      ‘I don’t know, I wasn’t listening.” – too funny.

    • The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bableweeny 57 Sub-Meson Brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian Motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood – and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess’s undergarments leap simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance with the Theory of Indeterminacy.
      Many respectable physicists said that they weren’t going to stand for this — partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn’t get invited to those sort of parties.” (p. 74) – having been to a party attended by a large number of physics types, I’d hate to see the ones that don’t get invited to parties.

    • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes,” with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.

    • Curiously enough, an edition of
      The Encyclopaedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.” (pp. 79-80)

    • “One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.” (p. 85).

    • “…he had turned unfathomably into an art form.” (p. 95)

    • “Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the Galaxy, and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance.

    • The planet in question
      is in fact the legendary Magrathea.

      The deadly missile attack shortly to be launched by an ancient automatic defence system will result merely in the breakage of three coffee cups and a mousecage, the bruising of somebody’s upper arm, and the untimely creation and sudden demise of a bowl of petunias and an innocent sperm whale.

      In order that some sense of mystery should still be preserved, no revelation will yet be made concerning whose upper arm sustains the bruise. This fact may safely be made the subject of suspense since it is of no significance whatsoever.” (p. 103).

    • “He had found a Nutri-Matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” (p. 104) - Adams and I are kindred spirits insofar as our love of tea goes
    • “…against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.
      And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then has to come to terms with not being a whale any more.” (p. 113)

    • “Curiously enough, the only thing that went through the mind of the bowl of petunias as it fell was, Oh no, not again. Many people have speculated that if we knew exactly why a bowl of petunias had thought that we would know a lot more about the nature of the universe than we do now.” (p. 114)

    • “It is an important and popular fact that things are not always what they seem. For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much – the wheel, New York, wars and so on- while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dophins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man – for precisely the same reasons.” (p. 132).

    • In fact there was only one species on the planet more intelligent than dolphins, and they spent a lot of their time in behavioural research laboratories running round inside wheels and conducting frighteningly elegant and subtle experiments on man. The fact that once again man completely misinterpreted this relationship was entirely according to these creatures’ plans.” (p. 132-133)

    • “We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!” (p. 145). – making fun of philosophers. Good times.

    • “‘Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm. (p. 152) – any good Hitchhiker’s fan has to love this moment.

    And so ends my summary of the Hittchhiker trilogy!

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