A week in review, 2020-W14


  1. Change (2020-04-03).


  1. Anne Helen Petersen, This Pandemic Is Not Your Vacation, Buzzfeed News (2020-03-31). (notes) The question to ask, then, is whether your relocation to a rural place will be a net help or a harm — not for you, personally, but for the community itself. Americans struggle mightily with the ideology of individualism: that all that matters, in a particular moment, is what is happening to you and yours. Rural America is asking you to think otherwise. You might “enjoy” your quarantine more. But the rural places so many Americans treat as playgrounds, and the workers who make that play and respite and feeling of safety possible, may suffer profoundly in your service.
  2. Mitra Sorrells, Coronavirus upends revenue management strartegies for hotels and airlines, PhocusWire (2020-02-14). (notes) From the standpoint of revenue management, including pricing and forecasting, coronavirus is a massive challenge for the travel industry – affecting both the relevance of historic data, the ability to predict the future and the need to address cancellations in the present.
  3. Jennifer Riel, How to Think About Long-Term Strategy When You Can Barely See Past Tomorrow, Ideo Journal (2020-04-02). (notes) Winning isn’t easy. It’s tempting to define winning narrowly, to make the task seem easier: winning means increasing the stock price this quarter. But as the last few months have demonstrated, a shareholder-led definition of winning is not only hollow, it can leave organizations with nothing to fall back on in a time of crisis. We need a far richer, more aspirational understanding of what it can really mean to win.
  4. Erica Klarreich, In Game Theory, No Clear Path to Equilibrium, Quanta Magazine (2017-07-18). (notes) “It has always been a thorn in the side of microeconomists,” said Tim Roughgarden, a theoretical computer scientist at Stanford University. “They use these equilibrium concepts, and they’re analyzing them as if people will be at equilibrium, but there isn’t always a satisfying explanation of why people will be at Nash equilibrium as opposed to just groping around for one.”
  5. John Cassidy, The Triumph (and Failure) of John Nash's Game Theory, The New Yorker (2015-05-27). (notes) That’s partly because Nash-influenced game theory isn’t actually a testable scientific theory at all. It is an intellectual tool—a way of organizing our thoughts systematically, applying them in a consistent manner, and ruling out errors. Like Marshallian supply-and-demand analysis or Bayesian statistics, it can be applied to many different problems, and its utility depends on the particular context. But while appealing to the Nash criteria doesn’t necessarily give the correct answer, it often rules out a lot of implausible ones, and it usually helps pin down the logic of the situation.


  1. #80 John Maxwell: Developing the Leader in You, The Knowledge Project (2020-03-31). (notes) [32:16] So I think all great leadership with others begins with personal leadership myself. The first victor I want to have in my life is a personal one. If I've got a few of those I can help you get some victories in your life also. But I definitely believe that the credibility of leadership, the confidence of leadership, all begins when I lead myself well. If I can lead myself well, then I've got potential leading you well. But if I can't lead myself well, why would I want someone else to follow me? To be honest with you, a lot of people they wouldn't want to follow themselves because they haven't done that.
  2. #86 - David Silver: AlphaGo, AlphaZero, and Deep Reinforcement Learning, Artificial Intelligence Podcast (2020-04-03). (notes)
  3. Creative Destruction, Akimbo (2020-04-01). (notes)


Sex Education: Season 2




There might be additional links that didn't make the cut at notes.kirkkittell.com


I never appreciated change until I lived in this house in the spring.

Here, out of the second story window of what serves as The Office, is a tree. I don't know exactly what kind of tree it is—some kind of pear, a neighbor told me. Seems about right—it excretes some kind of small, fruit-like thing onto the driveway. I'll pay better attention to the leaves this season and identify it.

What I've noticed, that I've never noticed before, is that subtle, constant change from winter to spring: bare branch, bud, flower, leaf.

Like many, many things in life, I feel like I'm behind the curve here. Somehow spring, as the engine that changes the earth, every year as it unlocks itself from its deep freeze, hasn't ever woken me up before. (This is its own essay, but spring is, as far as I can tell: (a) time for track and field, and (b) time to come back to school from winter break.) Here I am looking out of this window watching it—noticing it—for the first time.


Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Bud. Flower. Flower. Flower. Leaf.

Maybe it's simply that it's so common, so obvious, that I can't remember ever having noticed it before. Maybe it's just that I haven't had the change happen right there, so close it can be touched, seen so frequently it can be held. Again with the obvious: the change is so constant and subtle and regular and understood and expected, and yet so surprising and unexpected.

The primary question in this moment should be: how might we each play our part in bringing this pandemic to an end? But it is a moment too, for reflection, on the future. Who do we want to be, when we emerge from the worst of this? What do we want our organizations to stand for? These are questions of strategy—of what it means to win.

Jennifer Riel, How to Think About Long-Term Strategy When You Can Barely See Past Tomorrow, IDEO Journal (2020-04-02)

I think that's important: who do we want to be when we emerge from the worst of this? 
It's easy to get lost in the idea of hunkering down forever. Everything—or at least that small subset of everything that we experience now—feels like a tree being felled, waiting for the cut that topples it over. Rasp. Rasp. Rasp. Detach. And then the slow-motion fall.

But it ends. With skill (notch the tree in the direction of the fall) and luck (mind the crosswind gust) the fall goes at least roughly where you think it will go, and then you start again from there.

When do you want to begin to start again? Before the fall or after the fall?

If I could wake up in a different place, at a different time, could I wake up as a different person?”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (1996)

More on this later, I think. But just the idea for now. Fall... intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously... 

Who are we when we rise?

The color-patches of vision part, shift, and reform as I move through space in time. The present is the object of vision, and what I see before me at any given second is a full field of color patches scattered just so. The configuration will never be repeated. Living is moving; time is a live creek bearing changing lights. As I move, or as the world moves around me, the fullness of what I see shatter. This second of shattering is an augenblick, a particular configuration, a slant of light shot in the open eye. Goethe's Faust risks all if he should cry to the moment, the augenblick, "Verweile doch!" "Last forever!" Who hasn't prayed that prayer? But the augenblick isn't going to verweile. You were lucky to get it in the first place. The present is a freely given canvas. That is constantly being ripped apart and washed downstream goes without saying; it is a canvas, nevertheless.

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (1974)

Once more with the tree.

I thought the white flowers were going to be the best part. Looking around the neighborhood from the same window, there were yellows and oranges and pinks and so on—pick the color that best represented your mood, your dreams.

But it wasn't the best part.

The best part is the green erupting from the core of the tree, leaf by leaf, the base of a flame, burning upwards through the flowers, slow by moment but fast all the same, changing changing changing.

A week in review, 2020-W13




  1. Clancy Martin, Diary: The Case of the Counterfeit Eggs, London Review of Books (2009-02-12). Walking among the crowded jewellers’ benches I realised that with the right marketing I could make millions. I would have no competitors. The upfront costs of the deal could be financed quickly and easily if we made a few eggs that, so the story would go, I had managed to ‘purchase’ while I was in Russia: a couple of lost Fabergé masterpieces. As in the art and antiquities business, and among philatelists, tricks like these are not unheard of in fine jewellery. I had counterfeited before.
  2. Jerry Useem, How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All, The Atlantic (2017-05-01). (notes) Simply put: Our ability to know the price of anything, anytime, anywhere, has given us, the consumers, so much power that retailers—in a desperate effort to regain the upper hand, or at least avoid extinction—are now staring back through the screen. They are comparison shopping us.
  3. Kristin Iversen, Men Explain Fiona Apple to Me, Nylon (2019-04-29).
  4. Michael Hogan, OK Boomer: How Bob Dylan's New JFK Song Helps Explain 2020, Vanity Fair (2020-03-27). Maybe he is doing the same thing Allen was doing: trying to use his favorite songs and movies as shields against the idea that life is absurd and meaningless. And maybe—I have no idea but maybe?—Dylan is trying to break the chain of political evil by building a chain of artistic goodness. Several of the lyrics suggest that the JFK assassination was the beginning of something very bad. Something that is still plaguing us today
  5. Alex Tabarrok, Sicken Thy Neighbor Trade Policy, Marginal Revolution (2020-03-29). The second reason why export bans are a mistake is that when there are economies of scale banning exports can decrease local consumption. A company that knows that it cannot export will be less willing to invest in building new plant and infrastructure, for example. We see exactly this phenomena in the brain drain “paradox”. Brain drain proponents argue that developing countries need to ban exports of human capital (i.e. don’t let people leave) to keep skilled workers at home. But in fact places like the Philippines, which export a lot of nurses, also have more domestic nurses.


  1. Brian Cox, actor, Desert Island Discs (2020-03-29).
  2. 697: Alone Together, This American Life (2020-03-22).
  3. The Pixies, Where Is My Mind?, Surfer Rosa (1988).


working hard from home, or hardly working from home


There might be additional links that didn't make the cut at notes.kirkkittell.com

A week in review, 2020-W12


  1. Inconsistency vs uncertainty (2020-03-20).
  2. To what nature leads thee (2020-03-17).
  3. Breathe more deeply (2020-03-16).


  1. Jon Methven, Effective Immediately: We Are Closing Our Homeschool, McSweeney's Internet Tendency (2020-03-18). We know there are parents out there who can both love their children unconditionally and also teach them Common Core mathematics. If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we are not those parents. Just because we chose to close our homeschool, it does not mean your mother and I do not love you. It means we love you enough to know we can either love you or teach you algebra, not both.
  2. Seth Godin, Public health, Seth's Blog (2020-03-16). Often, it’s only coordinated action that can help the entire community. And coordinated action rarely happens without intentional coordination. Don’t do it because you finally got around to it. Don’t do it because it is in your short-term interest. Do it because we all need it done. It’s difficult to overinvest in building and running competent public health systems and management. And sometimes we don’t realize how important the system is until we see how unprepared we are. [Which is why, alas, today is a good day to stay home].
  3. Jeff Huang, My productivity app is a single .txt file, jeffhuang.com (2020-01-31). My daily workload is completely under my control the night before; whenever I feel overwhelmed with my long-term commitments, I reduce it by aggressively unflagging emails, removing items from my calendar that I am no longer excited about doing, and reducing how much work I assign myself in the future. It does mean sometimes I miss some questions or don't pursue an interesting research question, but helps me maintain a manageable workload.
  4. Jason Kottke, Some People, kottke.org (2020-03-20). Some people lost their jobs. Some people can’t sleep. Some people are watching free opera online. Some people can’t work remotely. Some people have contracted COVID-19 and don’t know it yet. Some people can’t concentrate on their work because of anxiety. Some people can’t afford their rent next month.
  5. Marc Weidenbaum, Taxonomy of Speakers at MoMA, Disquiet (2020-03-01). When you enter a given space, you may hear something, but excepting rooms dedicated to individual works, it can be unclear which piece correlates with the sound. Speakers are everywhere. Room after room you enter has audio; the question becomes: From which of these many pieces in front of me is it emanating? This isn’t a puzzle. It never takes long to sort out. But in the process of untangling several such circumstances, patterns begin to form and cluster, and in turn a taxonomy of the speakers comes into shape.


  1. E338.我在澳门赌钱,被高利贷囚禁, 故事FM (2020-03-16).


The Beatles, "Hey Jude", David Frost's Frost on Sunday (1968)


ok, we'll stay inside


There might be additional links that didn't make the cut at notes.kirkkittell.com

Inconsistency vs uncertainty

I would much rather deal with uncertainty than inconsistency—in the short term, at least[1].

Uncertainty is, in simplest terms, not knowing. You can start to append attributes like probability and subjectivity and so on[2], but "not knowing" is good enough. Recognized uncertainty is certain—you know what you don't know. As a result, when faced with a situation that I don't really understand, it's possible to feel comfortable. Internal tension is low—the situation is unknown, and this squares with expectations.

Segue: There is no substitute for a good I don't know. This is important in leadership. It's unfair and unreasonable to expect a leader to have all of the answers; it's unfair and unreasonable for a leader to behave as if they have all of the answers. I don't know. Smells like weakness. But that's just pride. I don't know.

Saying I know when you don't leads to inconsistency in direction—something that is excusable in a fool-me-once kind of way, but eventually signals unreliability and, ironically, more weakness than just admitting to the fact.

Where do we go?

I know. [Order #1]

[gets to work]

I know. [Order #2. Inconsistent and contradictory to Order #1]

OK so we'll go that way then, but that seems a little off.

Actually it isn't off, it's just that you don't understand the nuances. I know. [Order #3. Contains elements of Order #1 and Order #2, with fresh inconsistencies]

Now it appears that we're back at the starting line, heading backwards. I'm not sure that

I'm in charge here, OK. I know. [Order #4...]

Enough. For want of someone nailing down what they know and don't know the initiative was lost.

A needlessly complicated definition of inconsistency might be: oscillating aggregated uncertainty over time. The first direction is certain—or at least appears to be so. The second direction is issued in a certain tone and gives off a smell of subjective certainty—but the contradiction betrays objective uncertainty. And on and on.

Too many words. If you don't know, say so. If the situation changes and a new direction inconsistent with the prior is needed, explain it and move on. The difference between uncertainty and inconsistency is frustration and loss of trust.

[1] In the long term, inconsistency and change can be a virtue—examine the paths you take every day and decide for yourself if it's a principle or a rut. See also:
Mark Twain. "Party Allegiance: Being a Portion of a Paper on 'Consistency' Read Before the Monday Evening Club in 1887". The Writings of Mark Twain, Volume 33https://books.google.com/books?id=6gk3yAvhzD8C&pg=PA1653

[2] Come for the discussion about knowledge; stay for the igloo of uncertainty.
Tannert, Christof, Horst‐Dietrich Elvers, and Burkhard Jandrig. "The ethics of uncertainty." EMBO reports 8.10 (2007): 892-896. https://dx.doi.org/10.1038%2Fsj.embor.7401072.

Some other things that seemed interesting (the first one has been cited over 10,000 times) but I haven't read yet, but to maintain overall behavioral consistency I'll just pass them along with a look-how-smart-I-am-I-brought-papers wink:

  • Kydland, Finn E., and Edward C. Prescott. "Rules rather than discretion: The inconsistency of optimal plans." Journal of political economy 85.3 (1977): 473-491. https://doi.org/10.1086/260580 (pdf)
  • Hsee, Christopher K., et al. "Lay rationalism and inconsistency between predicted experience and decision." Journal of Behavioral Decision Making 16.4 (2003): 257-272. https://doi.org/10.1002/bdm.445 (pdf)

To what nature leads thee

From Book 7, The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (George Long translation) (Goodreads|review|notes), one of the several thoughts along the lines of "the world outside of you cannot affect you unless you let it":

Everywhere and at all times it is in thy power piously to acquiesce in thy present condition, and to behave justly to those who are about thee, and to exert thy skill upon thy present thoughts, that nothing shall steal into them without being well examined. Do not look around thee to discover other men’s ruling principles, but look straight to this, to what nature leads thee, both the universal nature through the things which happen to thee, and thy own nature through the acts which must be done by thee.

The last half brings to mind a bit from Thoreau's Walden, in "Economy":

The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can, old man,—you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind,—I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.

Feel that tension between doing what you're told and explicitly not doing what you're told. The former is what we get paid to do, most of the time, most of us. (In my opinion, etc.) That's OK. The world needs people like that—most of the time, and most of us. The latter is some kind of spectrum, perhaps from laziness to rebellion. (What axis is that?) You need a bit of this as well, but not too much, not from too many people. Surely we play different roles from time to time, but it's not unreasonable to say that we're typically one or the other.

But what if that get-along kind of behavior isn't really part of one's nature? How does one cope? Jazz seems to me, an ignorant outsider, to be some kind of intelligent, thoughtful, controlled anarchy. Do jazz players like to play from sheet music? Boxy 4:4 beats? But that's where they have to start, right? Students learn the music as some kind of structured heritage—the how the what the why—and then, over time, you have the music in you and you can bend it. So if you can drag or pull yourself through the things that aren't you in the conscious pursuit of who you really are, maybe knowing that you're on the way somewhere is how you can handle the parts of the trip you don't want. (And there's plenty of things in Meditations that say you should just deal with the world gladly, whether you're going somewhere you want to or not.)

More, and further afield: from Gary Klein, "Seeing the Invisible", Streetlights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making (Goodreads|review|notes):

Knowing how to violate procedures is a type of tacit knowledge

Tension: you can't go off-plan without knowing how and what and why the plan is the way it is. You can't thoughtfully reject something until you understand the thing you're rejecting. (A future post, maybe, about Chesterton's Fence, but in the meantime: Vicky Cosenzo, "Chesterton's Fence: A Lesson in Second Order Thinking", Farnam Street Blog, 2020-03-09)

One more line arises, somewhat unlike the rest, but getting at the point, and I've been waiting for ages to get it out there—Del The Funky Homosapien, "Check It Ooout", from No Need for Alarm:

I love to peep a rhyme / First of all I'm seein' if my man can keep the time / If he go off beat, and it's on purpose / He gotta come back on beat / Or the effort is worthless

Breathe more deeply

I feel comfortable and collected in the chaotic times, although I do not ever wish to experience them.

In quiet times, peaceful times, and so on, when quiet and peaceful people appear to be going about their quiet and peaceful lives—although who can really judge that from the outside looking in, maybe they're just barely holding it together—I myself find it to be something of a struggle to hold it together. It's like sitting in a quiet clearing in the forest, staring up at the leaves and boughs, with a mad dose of tinnitus ripping through the sky. It's not like any kind of hyperactivity where I feel the urge to move on to something else, there's just an underlying disharmony. It's not often destructive, but there are times, there are times.

Contrast that: chaos is calming. For me, anyway. The adrenaline flows and the eyes focus and the world shrinks to the size that it needs to be to get the job done. It's as if all that distracting noise in the larger universe is masked by the commotion of the battle. I wonder if that's what it's like to be a boxer--are those punches coming in at a fraction of the speed that we see them from the audience?

The Virus is unnerving. The Stock Market is unnerving. The Uncertain Future of an engineering company that made its wings out of finance and wax before flying to close to the sun is unnerving.

Breathe more deeply.

I started reading the George Long translation of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius recently (Goodreads|review|notes), in part, I suppose to help deal with those moments of unpressing uncertainty, when things get crazy but there's really nothing to you can do to affect the situation—to be, as Jules exhorted Yolanda, like three little Fonzies. One line stands out from the end of Book 4:

Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.

Unhappy am I because this has happened to me.- Not so, but happy am I, though this has happened to me, because I continue free from pain, neither crushed by the present nor fearing the future. For such a thing as this might have happened to every man; but every man would not have continued free from pain on such an occasion. Why then is that rather a misfortune than this a good fortune? And dost thou in all cases call that a man's misfortune, which is not a deviation from man's nature? And does a thing seem to thee to be a deviation from man's nature, when it is not contrary to the will of man's nature? Well, thou knowest the will of nature. Will then this which has happened prevent thee from being just, magnanimous, temperate, prudent, secure against inconsiderate opinions and falsehood; will it prevent thee from having modesty, freedom, and everything else, by the presence of which man's nature obtains all that is its own? Remember too on every occasion which leads thee to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.

Maybe a little less fancy, but a little more true to my taste, from Ed Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang:

"When the situation is hopeless, there's nothing to worry about."

A week in review, 2020-W11


  1. Drop database (2020-03-10).
  2. Now reading: The Brothers Karamazov (2020-03-11).
  3. This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be (2020-03-12).


  1. David Craddock, Where in North Dakota is Carmen Sandiego?, The Video Game History Foundation (2020-03-08). Research entailed more than making up clues. Lock tackled Government, which meant that if a case led students to Bismarck, the state capitol, she was in charge of devising reasons for the pranksters to be there. Other trivia could be so obscure—such as “gandy dancer,” slang for railroad workers and a term very likely to be unheard of to the game’s target audience—that accompanying history texts, assembled by the committee for inclusion with the game, were practically mandatory. Landsleedle and other teachers had accumulated a wealth of information on North Dakota, but had made most of it themselves. North Dakota was such a small state that even book publishers steered clear of it, certain that publications on the region would lose money.
  2. Sophie Gilbert, Marc Maron’s End-of-the-World Anxiety, The Atlantic (2020-03-12). As Maron cycles through snake-oil salesmen and the Fox News bubble and the discomfiting “dovetailing of late-stage capitalism and Christian end-times prophecy,” he seems to touch on a timely insight. The most natural instinct of humankind is to want something to believe in. Whether that’s the second coming of Christ, the affirmation of asanas, or even just the momentary self-definition that comes with posting a picture on Instagram, the desire is the same: to feel like more than an aberration, more than a squishable bug on a giant shoe. Maron knows this better than most. He’s the rare star who found real fame in his 50s, after an early career defined by bit parts and failed auditions and canceled radio shows.
  3. Tyler Cowen, Don’t Worry. America’s Response to the Coronavirus Will Improve., Bloomberg (2020-03-09). To be clear, Americans cannot count on any of these responses to be automatic. And it is still essential for the president and other leaders to send the right signals. Nonetheless, it is too early to write off the U.S. response as pathetic; being a laggard is an old and dangerous American tradition. It is past time, however, to flip the switch and get moving.
  4. Sergio Pistoi, DNA Is Not a Blueprint, Scientific American (2020-02-06). DNA is not a blueprint: it’s a recipe coding for thousands of different proteins that interact with each other and with the environment, just like the ingredients of a cake in an oven. Whereas a blueprint is an exact, drawn-to-scale copy of the final product, a recipe is just a loose plot that leaves much more room to uncertainty. Open a packet of cookies: each one was made from the same recipe and baked in the same conditions, but there are no two that are identical.
  5. Ben Swire, How a Kid's Perspective Improves Design Research, Ideo Blog (2020-01-16). Our project teams grab Quinn for their brainstorms because she listens to the problem and tries to solve it. She doesn’t think about financial viability or the laws of physics—she just thinks. Eventually, it's our job to add those things back in, but in the divergent phase of a project, she's a superstar. Although she's prone to insert dinosaurs and robots into her concepts, she cuts to the core of an issue and simplifies the needs behind it in a way that can inspire us to develop a dinosaur-free solution.


  1. Eric Nam - Love Die Young, Song Exploder (2020-03-11).
  2. S 6 E 11 Don't Go: On Meetings, Akimbo (2020-03-11).


Chef Wang teaches you from scratch: fundamentals techniques of "Wok Tossing". Let's learn!



  • TBD: Nothing, at the moment, but I bet we're all in the market for a good webinar, eh?

There might be additional links that didn't make the cut at notes.kirkkittell.com

This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be

It's not precisely relevant (bacteria/virus isn't quite tomayto/tomahto, although they're both very small), but this line came to mind recently nonetheless:

Because we humans are big and clever enough to produce and utilize antibiotics and disinfectants, it is easy to convince ourselves that we have banished bacteria to the fringes of existence. Don't you believe it. Bacteria may not build cities or have interesting social lives, but they will be here when the Sun explodes. This is their planet, and we are on it only because they allow us to be.

—Bill Bryson. A Short History of Nearly Everything. (2003)

This is still one of my favorite books, though I haven't read it in ages (not bad for someone from Iowa). It's really easy to believe that humans are The End of Evolution—The Pinnacle. Don't you believe it. We're only at the top of the food chain (sometimes) because the things that are smaller than us need us to be alive to feed them.

The one main thing I remember about the book is that the entire premise was something like: I don't know how the universe or the things in it work, so I'm going to start at the top (or the bottom, I don't remember which direction it goes) and ask "what is this—and why?" That's a good approach generally but also specifically, in This Time of Virus, when the loudest and most interesting voices on the internet are epidemiologists (NARRATOR: they are not epidemiologists), to take The Road of Curiosity towards problems. It's so much better than The Road of This Opinion I Have Based on My Tribal Alliances Which I Will Now Justify. Right? Pick one aspect of the situation that interests you (what does the virus look like, how long can a virus live on a railing, what is the optimal way to work from home, how do infections spread across a network (my personal favorite ("favorite")), what are good historical analogs to the current problem, etc.) Much better to think about the thing and learn something from it than to just bray your tribe's war cry.

(Wash your hands and stay away from crowds for a while. Don't be a jerk.)

Another line comes to mind... this time from Hocus Pocus (1990) by Kurt Vonnegut:

Just because some of us can read and write and do a little math, that doesn't mean we deserve to conquer the Universe.

Now reading: The Brothers Karamazov

Now reading: Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (1879) - translated by Constance Garnett (1922) [Goodreads / Goodreads review / Notes]

I don't know anything about this book. Nothing. It was late. I had recently finished the last book I was reading. (Lu Xun, The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun) I wanted to read some more fiction in 2020 because I had been reading more-or-less only nonfiction for the last few years. I didn't want to buy an ebook. I didn't want to pick up a book from the library the next day. That meant: going back to the old 1001 Books to Read Before You Die spreadsheet, picking an old book, and then finding a free copy somewhere on Google Books or the Internet Archive or sometimes a free ebook on Amazon. The Brothers Karamazov is the one I picked.

I expected this book to be just about as interesting as that last paragraph, but 40 or so pages in: it's completely absurd. Not at all what I was expecting--I was really expecting something dusty.

I remember off-handedly that Kurt Vonnegut referred to Dostoevsky, so I looked it up. It was a reference to this book in Slaughterhouse-Five:

There is one other book, that can teach you everything you need to know about life... it's The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, but that's not enough anymore.

Plus a quick link now in my read-later pile: Donald Fiene, "Elements of Dostoevsky in the Novels of Kurt Vonnegut", Dostoevsky Studies 2 (1981).