Seven Things I Wish I Had Said

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Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
~ Mike + The Mechanics (lyrics from The Living Years)

Intro 🚂

Stopped In Our Tracks

Ever seen a full-fledged train brought to a grinding halt by a …pumpkin?! Well, neither had I. That is, until I came across what you’ll see captured in the pic above. (It’s early in the Fall season for pumpkins, but still.)

If only trains could talk—especially the hapless specimen pictured above, what with it having come face-to-face with a monumental pumpkin—what would they say of this predicament?

Let’s get a little Zen and take a page from the ancient book of yesteryear philosopher dude Heraclitus—I say ancient because, for one thing, he came before the time of another stellar dude, Carl Sagan—when he (Heraclitus, not Sagan, who was mostly occupied with getting a grip on the billions and billions of stars in his version of Cosmos!) opined that

The cosmos speaks in patterns.

Imagine, then, the routes which the cosmos might take in communing with us. What would they say? Read on to find out exactly that. (Plus witness some other, assorted mysteries of the cosmos unraveled.)

Did You Really Say That?

So yeah, we will say it loud, say it clear, that we can listen as well as we hear. Otherwise, what we might end up with are

Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got
~ Mike + The Mechanics (lyrics from The Living Years)

And if you haven’t heard that song yet, I suggest that you do: It was all the rage when, way back as an eager-eyed undergraduate in Houston, I—along with the 2.5 million other drivers also stuck in rush-hour traffic—got to listen to The Living Years, many a time. Thank you, 93.7 FM, K-Lite (Houston) for powering my commutes to the university campus through the gridlocked traffic of the sprawling metropolis that once was my home.

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Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page. Restore them to the writer—he steps forth like a bridegroom, bids them all-hail, brings in variety and forbids the appetite to fail.
~ Laurence Sterne

A Clearing In The Wood (Take One) 📣

Digressions Go On The Back-burner

Have we digressed enough from the beaten path already?

I’m telling you, digressions are underrated. (Unless you believe in the eminently wise quote above.) And it’s not getting better. (Unless we take action.)

Gotta have some fun along the way, amirite? For crying out loud, our blog has the word “digression” built right into is, as in “Programming Digressions: Essays at the intersection of culture, software, technology, and engineering.” Plus remember the deal we made at the beginning—relax, it was not a Faustian one—about how it’s going to be all fun and games this time?

So yeah, we get to dabble with pithy sayings—seven to be exact—which stand out for their timelessness, their elegance, and for their power. It’s show time, and here’s what we got lined up for you:

  1. On Curiosity 🏄

  2. On Chance (Perchance?) 🎲

  3. On The Power Of Expression 🍄

  4. On The Pervasiveness Of Software 🚀

  5.  On Math 🍎

  6. On Wit 🎬

  7. On Distilling 🐝

Yep, it’s all fun and games, all the way down (or up, depending on how you look at it.) You see, writing (and reading!) should be joyful and never a chore.

Why fret over the vagaries of essaying when you can have an essay write itself for you. (It is The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that I’m channeling here, typically found on a Disney Channel starring Mickey Mouse, the young apprentice of the sorcerer, attempting his master’s magic tricks  of making things do his bidding for him, often with unintended consequences.)

Help Is On The Way

For help in this area—that of having an essay write itself for us—I took inspiration from the following quote, one which had made a prominent appearance the last time around, the one about how

A man will turn over half a library to make one book.
~ Samuel Johnson

Evidently, writing is no Mickey Mouse business: We’re going to need more than magic tricks up our sleeves.

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I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
~ Albert Einstein

#1. On Curiosity 🏄

Check the quote above: This one happens to be one of my all-time fav quotes. It is vintage Einstein: Brilliant and modest—when was the last time you witnessed that in someone? Oh yeah, Einstein spoke his mind; and he had a lot going for him in that department.

This is the sort of thing I have in mind when I think of inspiring words.

And that’s why I wish I had said that.

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The most important questions of life are, for the most part, really only problems of probability.
~ Pierre Simon de Laplace (all-round smart dude, mathematician, and probabilist chap extraordinaire of yesteryear)

#2. On Chance, Perchance 🎲

Probability is a whole world-view. And let’s face it: Probability is obscenely practical. It’s right up there with my beloved Linear Algebra! I should’ve paid more attention to this dude—Laplace—back as an undergrad when I first came across his name in the rather jarring context of the Laplace Transform. (I’m not making this one up.) Oh, here’s a fuller version of the thing above, when Laplace had opined that

It is remarkable that a science which began with the consideration of games of chance should become the most important object of human knowledge… The most important questions of life are, for the most part, really only problems of probability… The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus.

OMG, what kind of a rocking statement is that! We hardly knew ye, Monsieur Laplace!

What would I (not) have given to have said that?

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“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
~ Lewis Carroll (in Through the Looking-Glass)

#3. On The Power Of Expression 🍄

Generations of doting readers have rewarded the genius of Lewis Carroll by turning to his fanciful tales in hordes; I’m one of them. Here is the fuller thing he said, putting the words—inimitably and endearingly as always—in the mouths of Humpty Dumpty and poor Alice like so:

— “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
— “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
— “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

If that isn’t delicious use of the English language, then I don’t know what is. I’ve tried. Ah, and remember some fun we had—it was many moons ago—with taking language and blending it with programming code?

I can only wish for the kind of perspicuity with which Humpty Dumpty—if his bold words above are to believed—was supposedly endowed.

I wish I had said that, loud and clear. But I was only clearing my throat when it was all over.


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Software is eating the world.
~ Marc Andreessen

#4. On The Pervasiveness Of Software 🚀

Andreessen got this one right, amirite?

And he’s nailing it again by now opining that “AI is eating the world.” I suggest that you begin by treating the venerable HTTP as a full-fledged programming API: You do that and you’re off to the races, well on your way to anticipating the joys of harnessing eventual consistency.

Wall Street wishes that—back in the day—it had spotted the signals that had been talking all along, and that it had said exactly that.

I, too, do.

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Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas.
~ Albert Einstein

#5. On Math 🍎

Gotta tell ya, math never goes stale, never goes out of style. It continues to rock the world; mine for sure. Check it: Einstein reveals math from a new vantage point, one of commingling with poetry and logic. I wish I had said that. On top of that, Einstein came right back and opined that

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
~ Albert Einstein

What a (cool) guy he was! Let alone wishing that I had said that,  I merely wish that I had been there to hear it (for myself.)

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Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
~ Dr. Samuel Johnson

#6. On Wit 🎬

Would you care to be on the receiving end of Samuel Johnson’s barb above to the hapless soul who was ill-starred enough to proffer a manuscript for Johnson to review? I sure wouldn’t. But that’s okay; we roll with the punches, amirite?

Look, I had to learn rolling with the punches just to survive, especially since your blogger’s birthday happens to be—yes, I kid you not—on Halloween. (Did you notice any pumpkins above yonder? Is that a coincidence.) But that’s another, story, for another time, and for a different kind of confessional.

When you’re ready, say it loud, say it clear: Mike + The Mechanics will thank you. (I, too, will, FWIW.)

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Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
~ Emily Dickinson

#7. On Distilling 🐝

The SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) here is so incredibly high that it has to be seen—and experienced, reallyto be believed. That, in sum, is the experience of consuming poet extraordinaire Emily Dickinson’s works of genius. Here, for example, alluding to titrating sensory intensity, she advises us to

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
~ Emily Dickinson

Not even a single word can be taken away from that splendor—I cordially challenge you to try exactly that—without causing the edifice to come tottering and crashing down. That is brilliance, and I wish I had said that. (Or even something even remotely like that. By way of tribute, I’ve tried.)

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That was due TODAY?
~ Famous last words

We Regroup 🐙

Everyone doing okay?“, dare I say.

They say that after everything has been said and done, a whole lot more has been said than done.

Wait. What is that you say? “We’ve got miles to go, you know. And no pressure, but the deadline for it all is today…”

“Aargh… That was due TODAY?” is all we can say as we collectively face-palm. And I sure wish I did not have to say that.

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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
~ A rhetorical question, amirite?

A Clearing In The Wood (Take Two) 🌲

Relax, we’re not warming up to pursue that philosophical thought experiment—”If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?“—which raises deep questions, in turn, regarding observation and perception. Bro, we already got our hands full, what with dealing with the fallout of the global COVID-19 pandemic and stuff like that.

Plus it’s too late in the game to be pursuing academic thought experiments.

And I’m almost outta here, anyway.


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Sea water is both pure and polluted: for fish it is drinkable and life-giving, for humans undrinkable and destructive.
~ Heraclitus, an ancient, philosopher dude

A Sign Of Things To Come 🔮

How Could I?

But I wouldn’t leave you without a taste for things to come, now would I?

Consider, then, the matter of paradoxes—stuff such as the “duality” of sea water, stuff that is apparently discordant, and yet cognitive dissonance isn’t to be found within a mile.

Speaking of the sea, you have only to look around yourself for a millisecond before you realize, yet again, that we humans are swimming in a deluge of data. Are we drowning, or are we surfing?

(What’s up there? So yeah, I invite you to please stay tuned.)

That Mutant Pumpkin Ahoy

Meanwhile, with the appearance of a mutant pumpkin from outer space—tests for radioactivity are getting underway shortly—our train ride has come to an abrupt halt, “OOPS!” It’s every man, woman, and child for themself.

Oh yes, and we heard the tearful train, which is on dangerous terrain all right, uttering the solitary word (“OOPS!“) in a selfsame act of the cosmos speaking in patterns: This ain’t no Morse code.

I sure am glad not to be its shoes—or tracks, or whatever. And I sure am glad I did not have to say that.

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