Saturday, July 21, 2007


A Diary by John McCaughey

Blather [magazine] is here. As we advance to make our bow, you will look in vain for signs of servility or for any evidence of a slavish desire to please. We are an arrogant and depraved body of men. Blather doesn't care. A sardonic laugh escapes us as we bow, cruel and cynical hounds that we are. It is a terrible laugh, the laugh of lost men. Do you get the smell of porter?

---Flann O'Brien, Dublin, 1934

None of us can really be sure that we exist. My whole life, as this Diary shows, is a lie. All the characters in it are invented, none bears any resemblance to anyone living or dead. People who claim to find themselves here must know that the only real existence we can any of us claim is in the imagination of God.

---Auberon Waugh, Diaries 1972-1985

What's a Website?

On trial recently in Woolwich Crown Court in south London were three young Mohomaddens accused of helping to distribute Islamic propaganda over the internet in support of Al Quaeeda. One, who surfed the net using the name Irhabi007 (Terrorist 007) was said to have links with Al Quaeda in Iraq. The youths were also said to be involved in a murder plot organized by Islamaterrorists.

Hearing the case was Mr. Justice Openshaw who told stunned prosecutors: "The trouble is I don't understand the language. I don't really understand what a website is."

The trial had to be held up when it was all explained to the dim-witted jurist. He rather resembled the judge who decades ago asked counsel: "Who is this gentleman Mussolini, who appears to be an Italian?"

The trial of the Mohommadens continues. But aren't British judges wonderful? And it's not just the silly wigs.


Gates versus GM

At a recent computer expo, Microsoft's Bill Gates commented that "If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response, a General Motors press release said:

If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:

#For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash...twice a day.
#Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
#Occasionally, your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
#Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
#Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive---but would run on only 5 percent of the roads.
#The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car has Performed an Illegal Operation" warning light.
#The airbag system would ask "Are you sure?" before deploying.
#Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
#Every time a new car was introduced, car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
#You would have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.


Lingua Latina saepe dicitur mortua esse...

{It's often said that Latin is a dead language}

Ars gratia Artis

{Art for Art's sake}

----from Blather's "Bluffer's Guide to Latin"
Idiot Savant?

"I can calculate the movement of the stars but not the madness of men..."

---A rueful Sir Isaac Newton after losing a fortune in the stock market crash of 1720.

Plagiarism? Or Intellectual Magpie?

"I make others say for me what either from want of language or want of sense I cannot myself so well express..."

---The self-effacing French essayist Michel Montaigne who was fond of citing the Roman historian Suetonius.

Bossy women?

"The motive force that impelled some Crusaders [a 19th Century American anti-booze women's group] transcended the cause of temperance. The constant marching, the trapping of sinful men in the very commission of their sins, storming halls of legislature theretofore barred to women, the tumult, the martyrdom, the public attention---all this was adventure that liberated them from the tyranny of wifehood, motherhood and domestic duty........

"The [prohibitionist] group had the inquisitorial type of mind, said one critic. They want to coerce you into believing in their god...Temperance means moderation through self-control. When one is grown-up, compulsion through the law creates revulsion. You cannot make man just through the law, you cannot make man merciful through the law, you cannot make a man affectionate through the law."

----John Kobler: "Ardent Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition"

Impossible Things

"There is no use trying," said Alice. "One can't believe impossible things." "I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen, "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

---Lewis Carroll


"Whenever anyone asked Jerico why he was a mathematician...he would shake his head and smile and claim that he had no idea. If they persisted, he might, with some diffidence, direct them to the definition offered by G.H. Hardy in his famous 'Apology': "a mathematician, like a painter or a poet, is a maker of patterns."

If that didn't satisfy them, he would try to explain by quoting the most basic illustration he could think of: pi--3.14--the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. Calculate pi to a thousand decimal places , he would say, or a million or more, and you will discover no pattern to its unending sequence of digits. It appears random, chaotic, ugly. Yet Leibnitz and Gregory can take the same number and tease from it a pattern of crystalline elegance:

pi=1 -1 +1 -1+1
4 3 5 7 9

and so on to infinity. Such a pattern had no practical usefulness, it was merely beautiful---as sublime, to Jerico, as a line in a fugue by Bach---and if his questioner still couldn't see what he was driving at, then, sadly, he would give up on them as a waste of time."

---"Enigma" [a novel about breaking the Nazi code machine in World War II] by Robert Harris


The objective of life is not to be happy. The objective of life is to make society a better place in which to live. Every one of us has something to offer. Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the aeroplane and the pessimist the parachute.