Category Archives: Short piece

Too Much

Winston Churchill remarked that a dominant characteristic of Germany and its people was a tendency to too much. I don’t think the great man was being fair to his Teutonic cousins as the trait seems universal, even more so with every change of the calendar. The descriptor seems to best apply to those parts of…


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On the Heat Death of the Universe

I dimly recall a talk by the critic and polymath George Steiner (1929-2020) worrying himself to near multiorgan failure about the consequences of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The law itself is much more complicated and limited than the way Steiner used it or as I am going to use it here. I’ll just say…


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Smaller Brains

The human brain is the most complex structure known. As human-like species evolved over several million years into homo sapiens, hominid brain size tripled. Today the average human brain weighs about three pounds. Our nearest primate relative, the chimpanzee, has a brain that weighs less than a pound. Our brains constitute about 2% of body…


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Met Opera Cancels Next 100 Seasons

Metropolitan Opera general Manager Peter Gelb announced that following this season the venerable company will take a century long sabbatical. The not unexpected action followed Anthony Tommasini’s likening of the current run of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Puccini’s final opera Turandot to “anti-asian” hostility. Mr Tommasini, music critic for the New York Times, has pointed…


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On Good and Bad Service

The complexity of 21st century life has made bad service the rule and good the exception. In general, the larger the enterprise the worse the service. There is one screaming exception to this rule – Amazon. I’ll come back to them below. Good service is always the same. It is prompt, courteous, exceeds expectations, and…


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Pericles’ Funeral Oration

Pericles’ Funeral Oration was recorded, in an edited version, by Thucydides in book two of his History of the Peloponnesian War. The speech was delivered at the end of the first year of the war with Sparta – around 430 BC. It was an Athenian custom of the time to hold an annual commemorative event to…


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Spontaneous Order

Everywhere we look we are surrounded by orderly systems that arose spontaneously and continue to operate in the same way. The universe, regardless of how it started, operates according to rules that no matter their complexity are knowable and fixed. The laws of physics are unchangeable; it’s our understanding of them that’s subject to alteration….


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The Case For Universal Lockdowns

The past year and a half has been distinguished for its lockdowns, mask mandates, the silencing of opinions that diverge from revealed wisdom, and generalized unfocused fear. There are some, perhaps many, who interpret these occurrences negatively. Being by disposition Panglossian, I see these events as harbingers of a future devoid of sorrow. First, deal…


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On Stupidity

First God Created Stupidity. That was for practice. Then He created school boards. Mark Twain Carlo Cipolla (1922-2000) was and Italian economist and historian. In 1976 he Published The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity. He postulated five such laws. Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation. The probability that a…


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Carthage, Equity, and Henry Moseley

Scipio Aemilianus wept as he watched the final destruction of Carthage. Of course, he was the instrument that wrought the demise of that city. His tears came from the realization that everything is transitory; he could be sure that his city and country would one day suffer the same fate as the Punic Empire. We…


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