revised: 06/28/2010

C'est moi.
The Mulla Nasrudin
Piet Hein's Grooks
Aphorisms: Wisdom in Absurdity
Aphorisms: Thinking
Aphorisms: Learning and Teaching
Aphorisms: Science and Knowledge
Aphorisms: Chemistry
Aphorisms: Society
Aphorisms: Business
Aphorisms: Life, the Future, and its Alternatives

Click here for Ken's presentation at the 2016 Group Reunion, "Time Flies Like a Banana".

Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place. 
—Mark Twain.

Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods. 
—Japanese proverb

When a thing has been said, and said well, have no scruple. Take it and copy it.  
— Anatole France

C'est moi.

Stories that make us laugh are good.
Stories that teach us are good.
Stories that make us laugh and teach us are the best. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Law of Information Transport:
   Knowledge comes by the truckload,
      but wisdom arrives one mouthful at a time.

Suslick's Scheme of Priorities:
   If it isn't worth doing,
      it isn't worth doing right.

Suslick's Couture:
   Ties are what administrators use to cut off the flow of blood to their brains.

Suslick's Law of Threes:
   It always takes three times to do anything right.
   The first time you either overshoot or undershoot;
      the second time you either over-compensate or under-compensate;
         it's not until the third time that you have a chance to get it right.

Suslick's First Law of Maps:
   All countries are the same size—one map page.

Suslick's Observations on Educational Strata:
   High School education is the learning of that which most people know.
   Undergraduate education is the learning of that which most people don't know.
   Graduate education is the learning of that which no one knows.

Suslick's Laws of Management:
   1. There is no such thing as a pet shark.
   2. If you bring in a shark to get rid of a shark,
       all you get is a bigger, meaner shark.

Suslick's First Law of Infant Gravity:
   You can't fall off the floor.

Suslick's Second Law of Infant Gravity:
   It takes an infant 6 months to learn this.

Suslick's Observation on Ignorance:
   Never be intimidated by your own ignorance. All of us are mostly ignorant of what is known and infinitely ignorant of everything that isn't! —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Observation on Science and Creativity:
   Science is fundamentally a neurotic behavior. The 'well-adjusted', by definition, do not wish to understand the world; they simply accept it. Only the neurotic wants to know why and how. Only the neurotic wants change. Creativity, too, is fundamentally a neurotic behavior. The 'well-adjusted', by definition, do not wish to create a new world; they simply accept the one that exists as is. Only the neurotic wants to create new things and new ideas. Only the neurotic needs to create. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Observations on Ego:
   Ego is a house cat. It's nice to stroke, but watch out for the claws; it needs feeding often, and heaven help you if it gets out the front door. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Simian Classification:
   Most 800 pound gorillas are really just 120 pound baboons dressed up in monkey suits. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Definition of Leadership:
   Student Leader: a thug with big friends.
   Political Leader: a thug with rich friends.
   Business Leader: a thug with good attorneys.
   World Leader: a thug with an army.  —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Anthropological Hypothesis:
   We humans evolved as hunter-gatherers, and there was a strong sexual dimorphism between who did the hunting and who did the gathering. We can see this no more obviously than in the way that we shop today. Men go shopping as hunters: they enter the store, look across the horizon for their prey, go after it directly, pull it down off the shelf, and drag it home to be butchered. Women go shopping as gatherers: they go from bush to bush, looking for the ripest berries, remembering where the unripe berries are for a later day, select samples, try them out to see if they're ripe, gather the good ones all together, and bring them back home with care and delicacy. —K. S. Suslick

Dlott's Law of Certainties:
   The more actual data there is, the less certain the explanation.
   Suslick's Religious Corollary: When there is no data, there is complete certainty.

Suslick's Certainty #1:
   The plural of 'anecdote' is not 'data'. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Certainty #2:
   Hindsight is the most exact science. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Certainty #3:
   Cynicism is the first refuge of the romantic. —K. S. Suslick

Suslick's Certainty #4:
   None of us get any certainty in life except the eventual end of it. —K. S. Suslick

     To settle a violent dispute, two men went to the Rabbi. The wizened old scholar listened with care to the first man's tale and said, "You're right."
     But the second man leaped up, crying "Rabbi, it wasn't like that at all. It was this way...." After this version, the Rabbi turned to the second man and said, "You're right."
     A spectator, bewildered by all these goings-on, called out, "Rabbi, first you say one is right and then the other. But they both can't be right!"
     And the Rabbi winked at the bystander and whispered, "You're right, too!"

 —In memory of Alvin Suslick, M.D.

The Mulla Nasrudin


The Mulla Nasrudin is the wise-fool of Sufiism and there are hundreds of stories about him that are used to teach the important lessons of life (Idries Shah has collected some of the best). This particular one, I used for the opening of my own Ph.D. thesis:

    Walking one evening along a deserted road, Mulla Nasrudin saw in the distance a troop of horsemen coming towards him. His imagination started to work; he saw himself captured, beaten, and sold as a slave or impressed into the army. Nasrudin bolted, and dove into a ditch at the side of the road where he lay on his stomach, quivering with his hands covering.
    Puzzled at his strange behavior, the men ‚ friends of Nasrudin, after all ‚ stopped and asked, "What are you doing down there? Can we help?"
    "Just because you can ask a question, does not mean that there is a straightforward answer," said Nasrudin, who now realized what had happened. "It all depends on your point of view. If you must know, however: I am here because of you, and you are here because of me."

Nasrudin was often quite absentminded. One night before going to bed, he lit a match to see if he'd blown the candle out.

A man started talking with Nasrudin, standing outside a shop. Nasrudin had quite a stubble on his face, and the man asked, "How often do you shave?"
    "Twenty or thirty times a day," said Nasrudin.
    "You must be a freak!"
    "No, I'm just a barber."

Nasrudin was invited to a fashion show. Afterwards he was asked how he liked it.
    "It's a complete swindle!"
    "Why do you say so?"
    "They show you the women, and then they try to sell you the clothes!"

    Nasrudin went to a Turkish bath. He was poorly dressed, so the attendants treated him poorly, giving him only a scrap of soap and an old towel.
    When he left, Nasrudin gave the two men a gold coin each. He had not complained, and they could not understand it. Could it be, they wondered, that if he had been better treated he would have given an even larger tip?
    The following week the Mulla appeared again. This time, of course, he was looked after like a king. After being massaged, perfumed and treated with the utmost deference, he left the bath, handing each attendant the smallest possible copper coin.
    The attendants exclaimed, "But sir, last time we were horrible to you and you gave us a gold coin anyway!"
    "Yes," said Nasrudin. "This is for the last time. And last time was for this time."

Nasrudin entered the teahouse and declaimed: "The moon is more useful than the sun."
    One of the patrons asked, "Why, Mulla?"
    "We need the light more during the night than during the day."

Another time, Nasrudin left a note on the door of his shop saying that he would return in an hour.
    When he returned, he saw the note and sat down to wait.

Piet Hein's Grooks

    Grooks are short, often humorous, poems that are meant to teach some piece of wisdom. Piet Hein (Danish mathematician and architect) invented them during World War II, when Denmark was occupied by Germany. The short poems usually had a hidden meaning that was just below the sensitivities of the authorities. The name of these poems, as well as the signature used, "Kumbel", were picked simply because nothing else could be associated with them.



Nature, it seems is the popular name
for milliards and milliards and milliards
of particles playing their infinite game
of billiards and billiards and billiards.

('milliard' is an obsolete Britishism for thousand million)


Commutative Law

No cow's like a horse,
and no horse like a cow.
That's one similarity, anyhow.

The Paradox of Life

Philosophical grook.

A bit beyond perception's reach
I sometimes believe I see
that Life is two locked boxes, each
containing the other's key.



Problems worthy
of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back.

Nothing is Indispensable

Grook to warn the universe against megalomania

The universe may
be as great as they say.
But it wouldn't be missed
if it didn't exist.


Out of Time

My old clock used to tell the time
and subdivide diurnity;
but now its lost both hands and chime
and only tells eternity.


I'd Like—

I'd like to know
what this whole show
is all about
before it's out.

Wisdom in Absurdity

First things first, but not necessarily in that order. —Joe Palmer

If you come to a fork in the road, take it. —Yogi Berra

Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do. —anon.

Whenever I think of the past, it brings back so many memories... —Steven Wright

I was trying to daydream, but my mind kept wandering.  —Steven Wright

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask, and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. —Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Vegetarians taste better. —bumper-sticker

If a Vegetarian eats only vegetables, what does a Humanitarian eat?  — anon.

If coconut oil comes from coconuts, and corn oil comes from corn, where does baby oil come from?  — anon.

He was carefully treading in his own footsteps. —K. S. Suslick

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. —Groucho Marx

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. —Groucho Marx

Anything free is worth what you paid for it. —Gary O’Brien

Everyone is entitled to my opinion. —Gary O’Brien

I used to think I was indecisive, but now I’m not so sure. —anon.

Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time. I think I've forgotten this before. —Steven Wright

How much deeper would oceans be if sponges didn't live in them?  —George Carlin

What's another word for Thesaurus? —Steven Wright

What if there were no hypothetical questions? —Gary O’Brien

No sense in being pessimistic, it probably wouldn’t work anyway. —Gary O’Brien

What is the Hokey Pokey really all about? —Joe Palmer

You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six. —Yogi Berra

Only those who attempt the absurd will achieve the impossible. I think it's in my basement... let me go upstairs and check. —M.C. Escher

I have an answering machine in my car. It says, "I'm home now. But leave a message and I'll call when I'm out" —Steven Wright

I got an answering machine for my phone...now, when I'm not home and somebody calls me up...they hear a recording of a busy signal. —Steven Wright

I played a blank tape on full volume. The mime who lived next door complained.  —Steven Wright

I almost had a psychic girlfriend, but she left me before we met. —anon.

Whatever can be said can be said clearly.  —L. Wittgenstein (ironic for this maxim to come from the author of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)


Never Ask Why
    My dad was a great raconteur. He would tell this story about his training as a psychiatrist:
    An elder, very German psychiatrist would play act as a patient and my father would interview him. The "patient" would describe some behavior or anxiety, and my father was supposed to probe gently, saying such things as "And this bothers you?" or "Interesting..." or "And does this suggest anything to you?"
    After one particularly peculiar description by the "patient", my father asked, "And why do you do this?"
    At this point, the elder psychiatrist stood up, looked down over his thick, round glasses, and screamed, "Vhy? Vhy? Becuss I'm crazy, zat's vhy!"
    Never ask a crazy person why. —K. S. Suslick

Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.  — Plato, The Republic. Book VII.

Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.  —Bertrand Russell

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. —Bertrand Russell

Occam's Rule: Numquam ponenda est pluralitas sine necessitate. [Plurality must never be posited without necessity.]    (i.e., Keep it as simple as possible.)  —William of Ockham (c. 1287-1347)

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.  —A. Einstein (via Roger Sessions).

It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so.  —Will Rogers

By all means let's be open-minded,
but not so open-minded that our brains fall out. —R. Dawkins, Science, Delusion & the Appetite for Wonder

I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I remembered who was telling me this.  —Emo Philips

Learning and Teaching

We don't raise children by lowest common denominator. —Nell Minow

Don't let school interfere with your education. —Mark Twain

Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.  —Will Rogers

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I didn't know. —Mark Twain

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. —Andy McIntyre

The beginning is the most important part of the work.  —Plato, The Republic. Book II.

The less you know, the more you think you know, because you don't know you don't know. —Ray Stevens

There are three kinds of men: The one that learns by reading. The few that learn by observation. And the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.  —Will Rogers

A person who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool,
shun him.
A person who knows not and knows that he knows not is a child,
teach him.
A person who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep,
wake him.
A person who knows and knows that he knows is wise,
follow him.
 —Ancient Babylonian Aphorism

He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. —Chinese proverb

If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people. —Chinese proverb

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So is a lot.  —Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U. S. physicist, born in Germany.

You may have heard that a dean is to faculty as a hydrant is to a dog.  —Alfred Kahn

The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple.  —Oscar Wilde

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. —General George S. Patton

What did you ask at school today? —Richard Feynman

It is much easier to learn and remember, than to investigate and think. —John Gregory, the first president of the University of Illinois

Gil Haight, Professor Emeritus of the University of Illinois, used to tell a story about Albert Einstein:
    Gil was a graduate student at Princeton when Einstein was there, and they shared an interest in classical music. Einstein, in fact, was a gifted amateur violinist.
   At a special concert presented by Yehudi Menuhin, Gil was seated just in front of Einstein. As the first piece began, Einstein was nodding his head with his eyes half shut and very softly humming to the music. Midway through the first piece, Einstein quietly said, "Ooooh, I can do zat!"
   A bit later, he crooned excitedly, "Yes, yes, I can do zat, too!"
   Finally, after a particularly difficult passage, Einstein shook his head slowly, sighed, and said softly and sadly, "Och, I could never do zat!"
 —K. S. Suslick

Science and Knowledge

Never be intimidated by your own ignorance. All of us are mostly ignorant of what is known and infinitely ignorant of everything that isn't! —K. S. Suslick

Brauman's First Law: Just because you don't understand someone's explanation, that doesn't mean that it's right.
Brauman's Second Law: One's accuracy of measurement often exceeds one's precision of explanation. (Suslick's rephrasing: If it's smaller than a kcal, screw it.)
Brauman's Third Law: If you need to use complex statistics to answer a simple question, you've done the wrong experiment.(Suslick's commentary: but sometimes that's the only experiment available.)
 —John I. Brauman

Clarke's First Law: When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
Clarke's Second Law: The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
Clarke's Third Law: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
 —Arthur C. Clarke, "Profiles of The Future"

Gehm's Corollary to Clarke's Third Law: Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.
 —Barry Gehm. Analog, 1991

When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.  —Lord Kelvin

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. —Albert Einstein

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life. —Sandra Carey

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on. —Winston Churchill

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.  —John Kenneth Galbraith

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. —H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Seek simplicity and distrust it. —Alfred North Whitehead

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. —Unknown

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories instead of theories to suit facts.  —Sherlock Holmes, the fictional creation of Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) British physician and novelist.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.  —George Bernard Shaw

Science is fundamentally a neurotic behavior. The 'well-adjusted', by definition, do not wish to understand or change the world; they simply accept it. Only the neurotic wants to know why and how. Only the neurotic wants change. —K. S. Suslick

Creativity, too, is fundamentally a neurotic behavior. The 'well-adjusted', by definition, do not wish to change the world; they simply accept it. Only the neurotic wants to create new things and new ideas. Only the neurotic needs to create. —K. S. Suslick

Science advances one funeral at a time. —Max Planck

Science is facts; just as houses are made of stone, so is science made of facts; but a pile of stones is not a house, and a collection of facts is not necessarily science.  —Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) French mathematician.

Science is not formal logic–it needs the free play of the mind in as great a degree as any other creative art. It is true that this is a gift which can hardly be taught, but its growth can be encouraged in those who already posses it.  —Max Born (1882-1970) German Physicist. Nobel Prize, 1954.

[Science is] a great game. It is inspiring and refreshing. The playing field is the universe itself.  —Isidor Isaac Rabi (1898-1988) U. S. physicist. Nobel prize 1944.

The most incomprehensible thing about our universe is that it can be comprehended.  —Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U. S. physicist, born in Germany.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. — Philip K. Dick

Now, my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. I have read and heard many attempts at a systematic account of it, from materialism and theosophy to the Christian system or that of Kant, and I have always felt that they were much too simple. I suspect that there are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamed of, or can be dreamed of, in any philosophy. That is the reason why I have no philosophy myself, and must be my excuse for dreaming.  —John Burden Sanderson Haldane (1892-1964) English geneticist. Possible Worlds and other Essays (1927)

I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.  —Max Born (1882-1970) German Physicist. Nobel Prize, 1954.

The chess-board is the world; the pieces are the phenomena of the universe; the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he never overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance.  —Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) English biologist.

Necessity, who is the mother of invention. —Plato, The Republic. Book II.

There ain't no rules around here! We're trying to accomplish something!  —Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) U. S. inventor.

The plural of `anecdote' is not `data'. —K. S. Suslick

No one ever got tenure just for having good technique. —K. S. Suslick

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please. —Mark Twain

To argue from the general absence of evidence that there is no evidence for one's opponent's point of view is to write with an economy of truth. —A.B. Lovins, W.C. Patterson Nature 254, 280 (1975).

Never make a calculation until you know the answer: make an estimate before every calculation, try a simple physical argument … before every derivation, guess the answer to every puzzle. Courage: no one else needs to know what the guess is. Therefore make it quickly, by instinct. A right guess reinforces this instinct. A wrong guess brings the refreshment of surprise. In either case, life … is more fun!  —Wheeler, John A. and Edwin F. Taylor. Spacetime Physics, Freeman, 1966. Page 60.

If an experiment requires statistical analysis to establish a result, then one should do a better experiment.  —Ernest Rutherford (1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson) (1871- 1937) English physicist, born in New Zealand. Nobel prize for chemistry 1908.

No effect that requires more than 10 percent accuracy in measurement is worth investigating.  —Walther Nernst (1864-1941) German physicist, chemist. Nobel prize, 1920.

Ever wonder what the speed of lightning would be if it didn't zig-zag?  —George Carlin.

If any student comes to me and says he wants to be useful to mankind and go into research to alleviate human suffering, I advise him to go into charity instead. Research wants real egotists who seek their own pleasure and satisfaction, but find it in solving the puzzles of nature.  —Albert Szent-Györgi (1893-1986) U. S. biochemist.

The problem with this seminar is that the ratio of hype to results is too high, and I have nothing against large numbers. —K. S. Suslick, January 28, 1997

All of physics is either impossible or trivial. It is impossible until you understand it, and then it becomes trivial.  —Ernest Rutherford (1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson) (1871- 1937) English physicist, born in New Zealand. Nobel prize for chemistry 1908.

A man must have a certain amount of intelligent ignorance to get anywhere.  —Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. engineer and inventor.

You can observe a lot by watching. —Yogi Berra

If you can't imitate him, don't copy him. —Yogi Berra

If at first you don't succeed, then sky diving definitely isn't for you.  —anon.

Basic research is what I am doing when I don't know what I am doing.  —Werner Von Braun (1912-1977) German rocket engineer, in U. S. after 1945.

Every honest researcher I know admits he's just a professional amateur. He's doing whatever he's doing for the first time. That makes him an amateur. He has sense enough to know that he's going to have a lot of trouble, so that makes him a professional.  —Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U. S. engineer and inventor.

Big whirls have little whirls,
That feed on their velocity;
And little whirls have lesser whirls,
And so on to viscosity.
 —Lewis Fry Richardson (1881- ) English physicist, psychologist. Summarizing his classic paper, The Supply of Energy From and To Atmospheric Eddies (1920).



If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate. —Steven Wright

You can't change thermodynamics by encouragement.  —S. Lippard, January 28, 1997

I bought some powdered water, but I don't know what to add. —Steven Wright

Organic chemistry just now is enough to drive one mad. It gives me the impression of a primeval tropical forest full of the most remarkable things: a monstrous and boundless thicket with no way of escape, and into which one may well dread to enter.  —1835, Friedrich Wohler (1800-1882), first to make an 'organic' compound (urea) from 'inorganic' precursors.

To say that a man is made up of certain chemical elements is a satisfactory description only for those who intend to use him as a fertilizer.  —Hermann Joseph Muller (1890-1967) U. S. geneticist. Nobel prize for medicine 1946.

Organic chemistry is the chemistry of carbon compounds. Biochemistry is the study of carbon compounds that crawl. —Mike Adams

One day a man walked in and said "If I melt dry ice, can I swim without getting wet?"  —Steven Wright

How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink? —anon.

It doesn't matter what temperature the room is; it's always room-temperature. —Steven Wright


Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crud.  —Ted Sturgeon, World Science Fiction Covention, Philadelphia, 1953.

No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. —H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

You can never get enough of what you don't really need. —Harold Ramis, Movie Director

There's no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool.  —Edward Teller, quoted in "Nuclear Reactions", by Joel Davis in Omni, May 1988, p. 46.

When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.  —Jonathan Swift

But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. —Carl Sagan

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican. —H. L. Mencken (1880-1956)

Verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things. —Dan Quayle, a Republican and former US vice president

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.  —Jonathan Swift

Pro is to con as progress is to Congress.  —anon.

A fool and his money are soon elected.  —Will Rogers
That was the good old days: now a fool with some other, rich fool's money are soon elected, especially in Texas.  —KSS

The current state of our two-party system. —K. S. Suslick

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.  —Leo Tolstoy; opening line of Anna Karenina.

Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian. —Dennis Wholey

If it's true that we are here to help others, then what exactly are the others here for? — George Carlin

We all know that there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!  —Tom Lehrer

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film. —anon.

Do not do unto others as you would they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.  —George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now.  —Zaphod via Douglas Adams.

Ego is a house cat. It's nice to stroke, but watch out for the claws; it needs feeding often, and heaven help you if it gets out the front door. —K. S. Suslick

The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins. —Oliver Wendell Holmes

I assume full responsibility for my actions, except for the ones that are someone else’s fault. —Steve Sanderson

Why should I care about posterity?
What's posterity ever done for me?
 —Groucho Marx

To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.  —Voltaire

Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room. —Jonathan Swift

Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now. —anon.

When Change threatens to rule,
then the rules suddenly change.
 — Michael Parenti's 2nd Law of Politics

A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.  —Oscar Wilde (Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills) (1854-1900) Irish writer.

The trouble with being punctual is that
nobody's there to appreciate it. —Franklin P. Jones

Friends help you move. Real friends help you move bodies.  —anon.

Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.  —Mark Twain

When choosing between two evils I always like to try the one I've never tried before. —Mae West

The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote. — Vorlon Ambassador Kosh Naranek, Babylon 5: Believers; J. Michael Straczynski.

We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.  —Jonathan Swift

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! Don't do it!"
"Why shouldn't I?" he said.
I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!"
He said, "Like what?"
I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?"
He said, "Religious."
I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?"
He said, "Christian."
I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
He said, "Protestant."
I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?"
He said, "Baptist!"
I said, "Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?"
He said, "Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God!"
I said, "Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?"
He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!"
I said, "Die, heretic scum!!", and pushed him off.
 —Emo Philips

Do not speak unless your words improve upon the silence. —Quaker Proverb


The Beg-Bug Letter
     When I went off to Stanford for my Ph.D., my father (a great raconteur and a UI alum) told me about an apocryphal exchange between a traveling salesman and Leland Stanford, then president of the Central Pacific Railroad (and later, of course, the donor behind the founding of Stanford University). The salesman had been traveling on an overnight train in a Pullman car and discovered bedbugs in his pull-down bed. Upon his return, he wrote an incensed letter to directly to Stanford. Much to the salesmans surprise, he received by return post a handwritten letter on Stanford's own stationery. The letter read, "My dear sir: I am mortified to read of your troubles on our train. Such a thing has never before occurred on the Central Pacific, and I have taken immediate action to rectify the situation. We have fumigated the entire train, disciplined the staff and fired the head porter. Please take my personal assurance that this will never happen again. (signed) Leland Stanford." Well, the salesman was perfectly pleased with the letter and completely satisfied, until he noticed in the envelope a slip of paper with a scribbled message that read "Send this bastard the bedbug letter."  —K. S. Suslick

The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese. —anon.

Not to the swift, the race.
Not to the strong, the fight.
 —Henry Van Dyke

The race may not always be to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong,
but that's the way to bet.
 —Daymon Runyon

Those who live by the sword will be shot by those who don't. —Gary Hamel

The conquistador is inclined to put a swift sword to the natives;
the capitalist finds it more profitable to work them slowly to death.
 —Michael Parenti

It helps to think of the Government as a very big insurance company with an army.  —Michael Holland, OMB,

Student Leader: a thug with big friends.
Political Leader: a thug with rich friends.
Business Leader: a thug with good attorneys.
World Leader: a thug with an army.
  —K. S. Suslick

Annual income 20 £, annual expenditure 19 £, 19 shillings:
    result happiness.
Annual income 20 £, annual expenditure 20 £, 1 shilling:
   result misery.
 —Charles Dickens

We should distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes. —Henry David Thoreau

Mr. Dryer believes in a sense of humor and to facilitate this, he does not sleep. —Joel S. Dryer

Sharks don't sleep. —K. S. Suslick

There is no such thing as a pet shark. —K. S. Suslick

If you bring in a shark to get rid of a shark,
all you get is a bigger, meaner shark. —K. S. Suslick

CEOs are highly skilled in a special form of lying called leadership. Leadership involves convincing employees and investors that the CEO has something called a vision, a type of optimistic hallucination that can come true only in an environment in which the CEO is massively overcompensated and the employees have learned to be less selfish.  —Scott Adams (author/cartoonist of Dilbert), WSJ 6/5/2010

My father liked to tell a joke about three retired Jews sitting in Miami Beach. They are explaining to each other how they came to be in Florida. The first one says, "I had a small department store in Chicago, but unfortunately one day there was a big fire-everything burned. After I got the insurance money, I moved to Florida." The second one says, "Huh, what about that. I had a dry-goods store in Omaha. One night there was a terrible fire-everything went up in flames. After I got the insurance money, I moved to Florida." The third one says, "I had a big toy store in Cleveland. One day we had a flood-total loss. After I got the insurance money, I moved to Florida." The first two look at the third one for a long time. Finally, the first one asks, "How do you start a flood?" —K. S. Suslick

Ties are what administrators use to cut off the flow of blood to their brains.  —K. S. Suslick

Life, the Future, and its Alternative

There was a young lady, quite bright,
Whose speed was far faster than light.
She left one day
In a relative way,
And returned home the previous night!

For years I wanted to be older, and now I am. —Margaret Atwood

Everybody wants to get old, but nobody wants to be old. —Goethe

Any idiot can face a crisis, it is this day-to-day living that wears you out. —Chekhov

The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow. —H. G. Wells

It's a sobering thought that by the time Mozart was my age, he'd been dead for five years. —Tom Lehrer

In dog years, I’m dead. —Joe Palmer

Youth would be an ideal state if it came a little later in life.  —Herbert Henry Asquith

Pretty much all the honest truth-telling there is in the world is done by children.  —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions.  —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a lifetime's experience.  —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.  —Doug Larson


Roses smell sweetest just before the petals fall off. —Gary Hamel

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work;
I want to achieve it through not dying.
 —Woody Allen

If you don't go to other men's funerals, they won't go to yours. —Clarence Day

After the game the king and the pawn go in the same box. —Italian proverb

I’m so pessimistic that I think of perfect health as a pre-cancerous condition. —Joe Palmer

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?  —anon.

I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens. —Woody Allen

It is impossible to experience one's own death objectively and still carry a tune. —Woody Allen

You should emulate your heroes, but don't carry it too far. Especially if they are dead.  — anon.

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. —Hector Berlioz

Soon we'll be out amid the cold world's strife.
Soon we'll be sliding down the razor blade of life.
So let's give a toast, as each of us recalls,
to ivy-covered professors in ivy-covered halls.
 —Tom Lehrer

When I die, I want to die like my grandfather, who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car. —anon.

Things ain't what they used to be and never were.  —Will Rogers

The future ain't what it used to be.  —Yogi Berra

I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now,my own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. —J. B. S. Haldane. Possible Worlds, 1927


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Nature Cover 2002

Science Cover 1990

Science Cover 1991

MRS Cover 1995

Supramolecular Chemistry 1998

The Journal of Physical Chemistry 2006
Nature Cover 2002

Science Cover 1990

Science Cover 1991

MRS Cover 1995

Supramolecular Chemistry 1998

The Journal of Physical Chemistry 2006