Reservoir of Quotations Past

2000/1

NEW CENTURY--"In the daily press we find a fierce epistolary battle raging between those who believe that the year 1899 marks the close of the nineteenth century and those who hold that not until 1901 shall we cross the threshold to the new era. It seems so difficult to understand that 1800, 1900, 2000, designates not the beginning, but the end of a century. It is evident that there never was a year 0, that the century must begin with a 1. A hundred years ago the same wordy war was waged; a hundred years hence it will be renewed."

-- Scientific American, January, 1900, reprinted in January, 2000.

2000/2

Breath is to the singer as floor is to the dancer.

-- Alice Parker, on Performance Today, Wed., 19 Jan. 2000

2000/3

Computer experts now say that 2000 will be remembered mostly as the occasion for a thorough housecleaning and updating that left them primed for a rapid expansion of e-commerce and other new electronic technologies.

-- The New York Times, ``Year 2000 Rollover Problem, the Sequel'', February 28, 2000.

2000/4

Compare and contrast:

NEW CENTURY--"In the daily press we find a fierce epistolary battle raging between those who believe that the year 1899 marks the close of the nineteenth century and those who hold that not until 1901 shall we cross the threshold to the new era. It seems so difficult to understand that 1800, 1900, 2000, designates not the beginning, but the end of a century. It is evident that there never was a year 0, that the century must begin with a 1. A hundred years ago the same wordy war was waged; a hundred years hence it will be renewed."

-- Scientific American, January, 1900, reprinted in January, 2000.

Readers had strong opinions about our December 1999 issue on ``What Science Will Know in 2050,'' and none more forceful than the protests that this ``End-of-the-Millennium Special Issue'' came a year early. We sympathize with their point of view, but in answer: It may be more mathematically rigorous and precise to start the 21st century in 2001, but it is a meaningless precision given the caprices with which calendars have been modified over the years. Moreover, when people refer to periods like ``the 20th century" or ``the next millennium," our understanding is that they are typically less concerned with the precise demarcations than with the overall historical character and significance.

As such, ``the 20th century" is a label akin to ``the Renaissance" or ``the Victorian era." The bottom line is that if most of the world thinks that a new millennium has begun, then for all practical purposes, it has.

-- Scientific American, ``The Mail'', Letters, April, 2000.

2000/4-7

[S]ongs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way; and sometimes they are withered untimely.

-- Fangorn. The Two Towers(revised edn.), Book III, Ch. 4, by J.R.R. Tolkien.

USED 2000/4
But there, my friends, songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way; and sometimes they are withered untimely.

-- Fangorn, in Book III, Ch. 4, in The Two Towers (revised edn.) by J.R.R. Tolkien.

2000/7-8

The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then--to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.

-- Merlyn, in The Sword in the Stone.

2000/7-2002/2

``All insults are untrue. I state facts.''

-- Heimdall, accused of insulting Loki. ``The Roaring Trumpet'', p. 29 of The Complete Compleat Enchanter (1989) by L. Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt.

2000/9

The mathematicians, I grant you, have done their best to promulgate the popular error to which you allude [``The mathematical reason has long been regarded as the reason par excellence.''], and which is none the less an error for its promulgation as truth. ... The great error lies in supposing that even the truths of what is called pure algebra are abstract or general truths. And this error is so egregious that I am confounded at the universality with which it has been received. Mathematical axioms are not axioms of general truth. What is true of relation -- of form and quantity -- is often grossly false in regard to morals, for example. In this latter science it is very usually untrue that the aggregated parts are equal to the whole. ... But the mathematician argues, from his finite truths, through habit, as if they were of an absolutely general applicability -- as the world indeed imagines them to be. ... In short, I never yet encountered the mere mathematician who could be trusted out of equal roots, or one who did not clandestinely hold it as a point of his faith that x2 + px was absolutely and unconditionally equal to q. Say to one of these gentlemen, by way of experiment, if you please, that you believe occasions may occur where x2 + px is not altogether equal to q, and, having made him understand what you mean, get out of his reach as speedily as convenient, for, beyond doubt, he will endeavor to knock you down.

Auguste Dupin, in ``The Purloined Letter'' by Edgar Allen Poe.

2000/10-11

In the country lanes the ... lovers ... walked in the sunsets with their arms round each other's waists, so that they gave the impression of a capital X when seen from behind.

-- The Ill-Made Knight, in The Once and Future King by T.H. White (Ch. 45, p. 510).

2000/11 - 2001/6

True ability is sought in difficult times; in easy times men of wealth or family connections, not able men, are most popular.

-- Machiavelli, The Discourses III, xvi. From The Portable Machiavelli, ed. and trans. Peter Bondanella and Mark Musa, Penguin, 1979.

2001/1-6

Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods.

-- George W. Bush, Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2000.

2001/4-6

``[Y]our ignorance is higher than a mountain and deeper than a well.''

-- ``The Roaring Trumpet'', p. 35 of The Complete Compleat Enchanter (1989) by L. Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt.

2001/6-8

When the Way is lost there is benevolence. When benevolence is lost there is justice. When justice is lost there are the rites. The rites are the end of loyalty and good faith, the beginning of disorder.

-- Lao Tzu (quoted by Ursula Le Guin, ``A non-Euclidean view of Clifornia as a cold place to be'', in Dancing at the Edge of the World, p. 86).

2001/9-10

You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish.

-- Richard Feynman, in ``Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!'': Adventures of a Curious Character, 1985, Bantam paperback 1986, p. 156.

2001/10-2002/2

You will be successful one day.

-- Fortune from Chinese restaurant.

2002/2-...

Of course, relative citation frequencies are no measure of relative importance. Who has not aspired to write a paper so fundamental that very soon it is known to everyone and cited by no one?

-- Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord ...: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford, 1982, Ch. 5, Sect. 5c, p. 90.

2002/2-6

There wasn't anything I could do, so I took a nap.

-- Dr. B.P. ``Deacon'' Matson, quoted in Tunnel in the Sky by R.A. Heinlein (p. 53 of the 1977 Ballantine paperback).

2002/6-8

He did not like the grown-ups who talked down to him, but the ones who went on talking in their usual way, leaving him to leap along in their wake, jumping at meanings, guessing, clutching at known words, and chuckling at complicated jokes as they suddenly dawned.

-- the Wart, in The Sword in the Stone.

2002/9-12

[W]e got our decimal point off again. We got point oh oh oh one dragon instead of a hundred dragons. I confess, the solution eludes me. The calculus of classes contains no aspect of quantitative accuracy--

-- Dr. Reed Chalmers. ``The Mathematics of Magic'', p. 205 of The Complete Compleat Enchanter (1989) by L. Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt.

2002/7-9

Who has not aspired to write a paper so fundamental that very soon it is known to everyone and cited by no one?

-- Abraham Pais, Subtle is the Lord ...: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, 1982.

2002/9-

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

-- Benjamin Franklin, 1755.

2002/12-2003/2

``It doesn't help to have this swirling controversy that Senator Lott, in spite of his enormous political skills, doesn't seem to be able to handle well,'' Governor [Jeb] Bush told The Miami Herald in an interview published today.

-- ``Powell and Jeb Bush Criticize Lott for Remarks,'' New York Times, December 19, 2002 (story datelined December 18).
[Question: What does this tell us about Lott's racial attitudes?]

2003/2-9

Many lives have been changed by taking infinity seriously.

-- Michael Kurland, Perchance.

2003/9-12

Ah, ye brethren, that God whom I created
was human work and human madness like all Gods!

-- Zarathustra, quoted in Jagjit Singh, Great Ideas and Theories of Modern Cosmology, 1961.

2003/12-2004/2

[T]rolls traditionally count like this: one, two, three ... many, and people assume this means they can have no grasp of higher numbers. They don't realize that many can be a number. As in: one, two, three, many, many-one, many-two, many-three, many many, many-many-one, many-many-two, many-many-three, many many many, many-many-many-one, many-many-many-two, many-many-many-three, LOTS.

-- p. 115 of Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett.

2004/2-4

Bush is just another l'il upper-class white boy out trying to prove he's tough.
-- Molly Ivins in The Nation.

2004/3-5

D.C. Sniper John Allen Muhammad Sentenced to Death

Deserves [death]? I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.

-- Gandalf, in Book I, Ch. 2, in The Fellowship of the Ring (revised edn.) by J.R.R. Tolkien.

2004/5-7

In the view of the authorities, the non-conformists are guilty of every fault ascribed to them by the masses, plus that of being stubborn rebels to whom the normal provisions of the law cannot be applied.

-- Robert Lopez, The Birth of Europe, New York, 1967, p. 354.

2004/6-7

Ronald Reagan (1911 - 2004)

Most Destructive President of the Century

2004/7-2005/5

The learning process is not purely cognitive. It is simplistic to suppose that people remember what they are told, and understand things that are explained to them clearly. Much more commonly, people remember what interests them, and understand the things that they enjoy understanding. ... If in considering complex processes we limit our observations and judgments to things that we can analyze and measure exactly, this leads not to scientific exactitude but to tunnel vision. ...

-- Edwin E. Moise, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, date unknown (probably before 1970).

2004/8-2005/5 (Economics 101)

What is perhaps most interesting about the patent system is that the American law is essentially unchanged from the Venetian patent code of 1474.

-- William D. Nordhaus, Invention, Growth, and Welfare: A Theoretical Treatment of Technological Change, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969, p. 86.

2005/5-2006/4

Secularism is a blend of three principles: freedom of conscience, equality of treatment of all citizens, whatever their spiritual convictions, and the idea according to which the common law must aim only for the common good.

-- Henri Pena-Ruiz, interview in L'Humanité, 16 February 2005.

2005/5-2006/4 (Economics 101)

It is true that in the Roman world were to be found dazzling and colossal fortunes ... But modern economics have taught us that the commerce in luxuries, which concerns only a small number of rich men, is absolutely inadequate to produce, stimulate and maintain a thriving industry: ``When wealth is concentrated at one pole, luxury breaks up the equilibrium of production by diminishing the manufacture of articles of use and increasing that of articles of luxury''. Industry prospers in societies in which wealth is distributed over a great number of persons and descends from the richest to the poorest by graded stages: ``the more wealth is divided, the more consumption and consequently production increase.''

-- The End of the Ancient World and the Beginnings of the Middle Ages, p. 74, by Ferdinand Lot (English edition, 1931); the quotations are from Le capitalisme dans le monde antique, pp. 157-160, by G. Salvioli (French edition).

2006/4-2007/9

When a man is wealthy he may wear an old cloth.

-- Chinese restaurant fortune.

2006/5-2007/9

The most dangerous defeatists, the most dispiriting pessimists, are those who invoke September 11th to argue that our traditional values are a luxury we can no longer afford.

-- John Kerry, speech, April 22, 2006, as quoted by Bob Herbert, New York Times, April 24, 2006.

2006/4-2007/9 (Economics 101)

The parameter kappa, representing the curvature of the invention function, is virtually impossible to estimate with much confidence. It is perilous even to guess a plausible value for kappa. Some authors have used the functional form B(R) = beta Ralpha [for the invention function] .... This seems to be a reasonable kind of function both from the relationship of research to size of firm and the research-output ratio.

-- William D. Nordhaus, Invention, Growth, and Welfare: A Theoretical Treatment of Technological Change, M.I.T. Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1969, p. 80.
Comment: Watch the inconsistency. The author chooses a functional form that he has just called unjustifiable, and proceeds to draw substantive conclusions (see pp. 83-85) whose nature is dependent on his having made this particular choice.

2007/9-10

Toronto is New York run by the Swiss.

-- Attributed to Peter Ustinov by Gordon Ash.

2007/9-10, ?-2014/7

To the Editor:

After six years of the Bush administration and seven addresses by President Bush to Congress on the state of the union, it's now clear that Mr. Bush's political philosophy can be condensed into two principles:

First, most domestic problems in the United States can be solved by tax cuts or tax credits.

Second, most of the United States' foreign problems can be solved by wars or threats of war.

...

--Anthony J. DiStefano, Aiken, S.C., Jan. 24, 2007
--The New York Times, January 25, 2007

2007/9-2009/1 (Economics 101)

As long as the medium-sized property held its own beside the great estate, [Rome] was reasonably broad-based, above her peasant foundations. Her safety would be jeopardized, however, when inflation and taxation whittled down the middle class, and left only great landowners and starving peasants side by side.

-- Robert Lopez, The Birth of Europe, New York, 1967, pp. 13-14.

2007/10-2009/1

It is with a heavy heart that I apologize this morning to Aunt Jemima.

-- John Sylvester, a radio host in Madison, Wis., re his comparing of Condoleezza Rice to Aunt Jemima, 2004.
-- From "Regrets Only" (a list of apologies), an op-ed in the New York Tunes, Oct. 14, 2007.

2009/1-2010/1

To the Editor:

William Kristol ["The Next War President", column, Jan. 19] argues that one of President George W. Bush's accomplishments was keeping the country safe.

So specifically, how many major terrorist attacks on American soil had there been before 9/11 and what reason do we have to believe that there would have been more without the efforts of the Bush administration?

The available evidence, it seems to me, points to the conclusion that most of the terrorist plots that were supposedly nipped in the bud by the administration were never viable threats to anyone.

--Joseph Turner, Portland, Ore., Jan. 19, 2009
The writer is a former analyst and station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency.
-- The New York Times, January 25, 2009

2009/1-2014/7 (Economics 101)

Tax exemptions for privileged groups brought high taxes on industry and agriculture, and emigration increased.

— Article on Charles II of Spain, The Columbia Encyclopedia, 5th ed., 1993.

2010/1-11

"The attention of an appreciative public is called to the proper spelling of the name -B-i-n-g-h-a-m-t-o-n- because certain illiterate and evil disposed persons, notably the inhabitants of Elmira, tantalize and vex the souls of ardent Binghamtonians by wantonly interpolating the letter 'p' ..."

--from an early history of Binghamton, as posted at the Cyber Cafe West, January, 2010.

2010/1-11 (Economics 101)

As bankers demanded that new regulation should not stifle innovation, a clearly irritated Mr Volcker said that the biggest innovation in the industry over the past 20 years had been the cash machine. He went on to attack the rise of complex products such as credit default swaps (CDS).

"I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth -- one shred of evidence."

— Paul Volcker, Federal Reserve chairman 1979-1987. "'Wake up, gentlemen', world's top bankers warned by former Fed chairman Volcker", The Times (London), December 9, 2009.

...

Meanwhile, George Soros argued that CDS should be banned. The billionaire investor likened the widely traded securities to buying life assurance and then giving someone a licence to shoot the insured person.

"They really are a toxic market," he said. "Credit default swaps give you a chance to bear-raid bonds. And bear raids certainly can work."

"'Wake up, gentlemen', world's top bankers warned by former Fed chairman Volcker", The Times (London), December 9, 2009.

2010/1-11

To the Editor:

By means of two legal fictions, that corporations are people and money is speech, the Roberts court has turned America from a democracy to a plutocracy.

— Norman N. Holland, in "Letters: Corporate Spending in Our Elections", The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2010

2010/1-11

To the Editor:

Why is everyone up in arms about the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unfettered monetary access to the American election process? To me this is a golden opportunity, as now our elected officials can sell corporate naming rights to their seats.

The junior senator from North Carolina? He or she is now the Bank of America senator. The senior senator from Alaska could be the Exxon senator.

The politicians may never have to fund-raise again! Think of all the time that will save to actually legislate.

— Randy Levinson, in "Letters: Corporate Spending in Our Elections", The New York Times, Jan. 23, 2010

2010/11-

To the Editor:

After six years of the Bush administration and seven addresses by President Bush to Congress on the state of the union, it's now clear that Mr. Bush's political philosophy can be condensed into two principles:

First, most domestic problems in the United States can be solved by tax cuts or tax credits.

Second, most of the United States' foreign problems can be solved by wars or threats of war.

...

--Anthony J. DiStefano, Aiken, S.C., Jan. 24, 2007
--The New York Times, January 25, 2007

2010/11-2014/7

The notion that this bill doesn't keep people out of foreclosure is true. It doesn't combat global warming. It doesn't get troops out of Iraq. It won't help me lose weight. There are a lot of things this bill won't do that I very much want to do. None of them are a reason to vote against a bill that doesn't do what it doesn't say it's going to do but does what it does. What it does is go to the aid of cities that have been victimized.

-- Rep. Barney Frank, answering a criticism of a housing bill he supports.
-- "A Liberal Wit Builds Bridges To the G.O.P.", New York Times, May 13, 2008.

2010/11-2014/7

They had a year of joy, twelve months of the strange heaven which the salmon know on beds of river shingle, under the gin-clear water. ... Looking back on it, ... they did not remember that in this year it had ever rained or frozen.

-- The Ill-Made Knight (Ch. 14, p. 381)

2014/7-

'Tis better to have loved and flossed
Than never to have flossed at all.

-- after S.J. Bruskin, July 2014



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