Very Well Read

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

Archive for the month “July, 2006”

Random Quotations

This is a spot for random quotations that I like (which may or may not be from actual books).

“If religions was based on scientific evidence it would be called
“science”… and no one would believe it.”

-Stephen Colbert

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.”

-Jean Chretien

Average is as close to the bottom as it is to the top.

-Lulu Lemon poster


Mostly Harmless

I’ve recently re-read the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy. I’d like to put my posts for these books in the correct order but, as fate would have it, was on book 5 by the time I decided to start this blog. So I’m starting with the last book and working backwards (with some other books in between, I’m sure).

I’m on a bit of a Douglas Adams kick, so expect to see a post on The Salmon of Doubt, which I’m reading right now (and, incidentally, I highly recommend), in addition the rest of the trilogy.

The book opens with the following written on the first 4 pages:

  • Anything that happens, happens
  • Anything that, in happening, causes something to happen, causes something to happen.
  • Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen, happens again
  • It doesn’t necessarily do it in chronological order.

I found this fairly amusing. Shortly after reading Mostly Harmless, I started reading The Salmon of Doubt, in which Adams talks about this (so expect to hear more about it in that posting, whenever I get around to it).

  • Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own laws.” (p. 9)
  • On New York (but which can equally apply to Toronto: “In the wintertime the temperature falls below the legal minimum, or rather it would do if anybody had the common sense to set a legal minimum” (p. 15)
  • A lot of inhabitants of New York will honk on mightly abuot the pleasures of spring, but if they actually knew anything about the pleasures of spring they would know of at least five thousand nine hundred and eighty three better places to spend it than New York, and that’s just on the same latitude” (p.16)
  • … matter consists almost entirely of nothing at all. The chances of a neutrino actually hitting something as it travels through all this howling emptiness are roughly comparable to that of dropping a ball bearing at random from a cruising 747 and hitting, say, an egg sandwich.” (p. 36) – I love physics.
  • Ford had his own code of ethics. It wasn’t much of one, but it was his and he stuck by it, more or less. One rule he made was never to buy his own drinks. He wasn’t sure if that counted as an ethic, but you have to go with what you’ve got.” (p. 68)
  • The frightening thing about the Vogons was their absolute mindless determination to do whatever mindless thing it was they were determined to do. There was never any point in trying to appeal to their reason because they didn’t have any. However, if you keep your nerve you could sometimes exploit their blinkered, bludgeoning insistence on being bludgeoning and blinkered.” (p. 131) – after reading The Salmon of Doubt, specifically the interview in which Douglas Adams speaks of his “radical atheism,” I’d hazard a guess that he’s making a veiled reference to religious zealots here.
  • In the spirit of scientific enquiry he hurled himself out of the window again.” (pp. 133)
  • “Now logic is a wonderful thing but it has, as the processes of evolution discovered, certain drawbacks. Anything that thinks logically can be fooled by some­thing else which thinks at least as logically as it does. The easiest way to fool a completely logical robot is to feed it the same stimulus sequence oyer and over again so it gets locked in a loop. This was best demonstrated by the famous Herring Sandwich experiments con­ducted millennia ago at MISPWOSO (The Maximega­lon Institute of Slowly and Painfully Working Out the Surprisingly Obvious). A robot was programmed to believe that it liked herring sandwiches. This was actually the most difficult part of the whole experiment. Once the robot had been programmed to believe that it liked herring sandwiches, a herring sandwich was placed in front of it. Whereupon the robot thought to itself, ‘Ah! A herring sandwich! I like herring sandwiches.’ It would” then bend over and scoop up the herring sandwich in its herring sandwich scoop, and then straighten up again. Unfortunately for the robot, it was fashioned in such a way that the action of straightening up caused the herring sandwich to slip straight back off its herring sandwich scoop and fall on to the floor in front of the robot. Whereupon the robot thought to itself, ‘Ah! A herring sandwich. . .’ etc., and repeated the same action over and over and over again. The only thing that prevented the herring sandwich from getting bored with the whole damn business and crawling off in search of other ways of passing the time was that the herring sandwich, being just a bit of dead fish between a couple of slices of bread, was marginally less alert to what was going on than was the robot. The scientists at the Institute thus discovered the driving force behind all change, development and inno­vation in life, which was this: herring sandwiches. They published a paper to this effect, which was widely criticized as being extremely stupid. ” (pp. 51-52)

Nothing’s Sacred

I’m a big fan of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Despite not having cable for the last 5+ years, I’ve always kept up with the show by watching clips on the Comedy Central website. All of their correspondents are hilarious and Lewis Black is no exception. He yells and rants like a neo-Con, but he’s totally a lefty. So he’s yelling and ranting about things that drive me crazy, things that make me yell and rant too. So when I saw this book of his at the library, I knew it would be a good read. I think Jon Stewart summed it up well in his quotation on the back of the book:

Lewis Black is the only person I know who can actually yell in print form.
-Jon Stewart

The first quotation from this book that is worth recording is the dedication:

This book is dedicated to all of my friends who helped me get to where I am today — you know who you are… and when I find you I am going to kill you.

Now that’s a dedication!

Many other fine quotations come from the chapter titles and/or their taglines, including:

  • What am I doing writing a book? I can’t sit still for that long.
  • The Pledge of Allegiance… with liberty and Starbucks for all.
  • My Brother, Ron — The good do die young and pricks do live forever.
  • If there is a hell, it is modeled after junior high.
  • The real world is just like high school, only there are more places to eat.
  • The Post Office – Fuck you, Ben Franklin.
  • Writing may just be an excuse to have the whole day to masturbate.
  • College prepares you for the real world. Graduate school prepares you for an even realer world.

Now, lest you think I only read the chapter titles, here are a few quotations from the body of the book that I really liked:

  • “…no child, ever, has said the words “under God” and experienced the rapture” (p. 15)
  • And I think that it takes a lot of balls for heterosexuals to make a fuss over this issue [gay marriage], considering 50 percent of us can’t even stay married. It’s not like we have a lock on this institution” (p. 30) – this reminds me of a point made by a friend of mine a few years ago. After watching “Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?” he said, “Ya, and we are going to destroy the sanctity of marriage!
  • I had become really good at getting good grades – a skill you can learn without learning anything else at the same time.” (p. 79) – that’s a total frustration of mine… tests never seem to test what you’ve actually learned, just what you’ve memorized.
  • “I still wonder how you can elect a leader of the free world who has never seen the world. For God’s sake, the man never even made it to Canada. That’s almost impossible. Even drunk on a bet you can make it to Canada.” (p. 101)
  • Tech support is actually code for ‘No one is here, no one has ever been here. We could give a shit. You didn’t pay enough for this thing in the first place, and besides, it works by magic.” (i. 136)
  • If you were a parent at that time, however, you had reason to count your blessings because, as part of the tax cut package, you would received a check from the feds for four hundred dollars for every child you had. Which really paid off for those couples that had, say, a thousand kids.” (p. 169)
  • If curling is an Olympic sport, then oral sex is sex. And even if someone is bad at it, they should still get a fucking medal.” (p. 175)
  • We were in the midst of an energy crisis and in order to conserve, the school would shut down for the month. This was 1975. And since then we have done nothing, I mean, squat, zilch, nada, to deal with our energy problems.” (p.198) – Isn’t that a little terrifying? I mean, that was before I was born! And I’m old!
  • And I went down to see the dean of students, with whom I’d already become enamored because he’d begun discussing the fact that they were thinking of throwing me out of school. I had a tendency to tell the faculty at every turn, in so many words, bascially that they were full of shit.” (p. 199)
  • Describing a scene in Houston, Texas: “It was a shocking epiphany… there, on one corner, was a Starbucks. A rather common sight, to be sure. But across the street in an office building that was a mirror image of the structure holding the Starbucks… stood another Starbucks.. At first I looked back and forth, convinced the sun was playing tricks on my eyes. I thought, let me lok at this Starbucks, and when I turn around, there couldn’t possibly be a Starbucks behind me. After all, I reasoned, if there was a just and loving God, he certainly wouldn’t allow this shit to happen.” – Clearly, Lewis has not been to Vancouver, where this is a relatively common sight.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

For some reason, I’ve been hearing about this book a lot lately. I mean, a lot. Like every second person I talked to mentioned it. So I decided to check it out. After waiting for a while (being 27th on the waiting list at VPL), I got the book and, quite honestly, I couldn’t put it down. I didn’t find it to be very well written (far too repetitive for my liking), but for some reason I found the book fascinating. Now, I don’t agree with some of the things he says… most notably, his views on taxes. Basically, he feels that taxes just penalize the poor & middle class, because the rich hire expensive accountants to get them out of paying taxes and the government wastes the tax money you give them anyway. But to me, this means that we should be fixing our tax system so that the rich pay their fair share and to eliminate government waste, making sure that tax money goes to the things it’s meant to go to. Things like education, research and health care are, in my opinion, far too important to be run by corporate interests. But I did find many of the things that he says in this book thought-provoking. I definitely like the idea of having my money work for me rather than working for my money (but that could be because I work for very, very little money!). I also like the idea of working to learn things and the recommendation to never stopping learning.
Some of the quotations I liked from this book were:

  • Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn” – I thought this really reflects a great attitude… we can always learn from our “mistakes,” right?
  • Money is an illusion” – This is a good one to keep in mind should I ever get around to investing… I think it would help with the fear of losing money on an investment… you shouldn’t really be investing money that you can’t afford to lose.
  • “... history repeats itself because we do not learn from history. We only memorize historical dates and names, not the lesson.” – This one made me think of science. I often say that (or complain about, really) we don’t really teach kids science, we teach them the history of science. We have them memorize facts as if they are, and always were, set in stone, but we rarely teach them about the process of science, which is really what science is all about. Science is far more exciting than knowing that there are 206 bones in the human body and the atomic mass of calcium is 40.078 amu.
  • Most people never see these opportunities because they are looking for money and security, so that’s all they get. The moment you see on opportunity, you will see them for the rest of your life.” – This one made me think of my sister. My sister is truly an entrepreneur… she sees business opportunities all over the place. I hope to ride her coat-tails as she builds her empire.

All The Books

All the books I’ve made postings on, in alphabetical order:

By Title:

By Author:


Why A Blog

I tend to read a lot of books. Right now I have three different books on the go, with several others also checked out of the library. I also tend to have a very poor memory for things I’ve read (or movies I’ve seen, or things I’ve said and done, or… well, you get the idea). So I often write down quotations from books as I read, to try to remember the good stuff. Of course, due to the aforementioned poor memory, I usually can’t find the paper/napkin/envelope/person on which I wrote down the aforementioned quotations. I started writing them down in a little red notebook, which is handy for when I’m reading on the bus but not so handy when I lose the notebook for a week and a half (which I did recently). So I thought that perhaps a blog for these quotations (and the occasional reflection) might be a good way of keeping all this stuff together… I mean, I can’t misplace the internet, can I?

I don’t anticipate that this blog will be all that interesting to anyone but me, so I’m not going to advertise it. Let’s just see how long it takes before someone stumbles upon it on my Profile page…

Post Navigation