1. Even in our weird information-saturated world, there’s so much we don’t, and can’t, know, even about something as mundane as a company. The writer M. F. K. Fisher said: “Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken.” Every company, until it breaks (i.e. gets its email subpoenaed Enron-style, I guess) is that egg. Every family is that egg. Every person is that egg. And that’s a wonderful thing, because it means there are always mysteries.

    — Robin Sloan, “The Limits of Knowledge,” Snarkmarket

  2. I love that there can be an art to nearly everything. I love that geometry is ancient. I love that Frank Lloyd Wright was shameless. I love that the littlest things can make biggest differences, like cufflinks or a pinch of salt or just 5 minutes. I love that some things are inexplicable, in fact more things than you’d expect. I love that no expertise is needed to appreciate a well-made thing. This. I love that you can pretty much always assume there is a better way. I love that anything can seem new. I love that a computer is referred to as a machine. I love that music doesn’t have to mean anything to be beautiful. I love that there are theories about handwriting, the composition of matter, and horse racing. I love the knuckleball. I love the lightbulb joke about how many boring people. I love that the things worth remembering are usually the things that get remembered. I love the moment at dusk when the F train comes out of the tunnel after Carroll St. and fills with golden sunset light and feels like a cathedral. I love the slow motion replay. I love the way that hat looks on you. I love that Japanese architects deliberately inserted mistakes into their designs to appease the gods, who believe only they are perfect. I love that the heart is a muscle. I love the simplicity of punctuation. I love the Radiator Building, the Queensboro Bridge, and summertime. That perfect swing. I love that line about how memory is like a train. I love that anything is interesting if you look at it closely enough. I love that even a cheap hamburger is still pretty good.

    — Sam Potts of Sam Potts Inc et al.

  3. Anybody who is tempted to question my use of frozen pancake batter might want to stop and think about what pancakes really are. They are flour and milk drowned in butter and some form of sugar. They’re crap. As far as food value, you might as well take Crisco, whip it up with powdered sugar, and spread it on your face. I am not saying they’re not delicious or that you shouldn’t eat them but they’re a luxury, a recreation, like smoking marijuana or having sex.

    — Kenny Shopsin and Carolynn Carreno, Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin

  4. Every technology is a metaphor. That much is clear. The difficult matter is to sort out whether this is a primary or secondary function. Which is to say, did we initially make this universe of instruments, machines, tools, and devices as a way of talking about our condition, only then to discover, post hoc, that all the amassed hardware also proved useful for solving various practical problems (washing dishes, killing neighbors, etc.)? Or did it work the other way around? Did we set out to kill our neighbors, say, and then notice that the sword was a lovely way to say “violence”?

    — Yara Flores, “Spirit Duplication,” Cabinet Magazine

  5. You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair — the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.

    — Stephen King, From “What Writing Is,” On Writing

  6. Gulls wheel through spokes of sunlight over gracious roofs and dowdy thatch, snatching entrails at the marketplace and escaping over cloistered gardens, spike-topped walls and treble-bolted doors. Gulls alight on whitewashed gables, creaking pagodas and dung-ripe stables; circle over towers and cavernous bells and over hidden squares where urns of urine sit by covered wells, watched by mule-drivers, mules and wolf-snouted dogs, ignored by hunchbacked makers of clogs; gather speed up the stoned-in Nakashima River and fly beneath the arches of its bridges, glimpsed from kitchen doors, watched by farmers walking high, stony ridges. Gulls fly through clouds of steam from laundries’ vats; over kites unthreading corpses of cats; over scholars glimpsing truth in fragile patterns; over bath-house adulterers; heartbroken slatterns; fishwives dismembering lobsters and crabs; their husbands gutting mackerel on slabs; woodcutters’ sons sharpening axes; candle-makers, rolling waxes; flint-eyed officials milking taxes; etiolated lacquerers; mottled-skinned dyers; imprecise soothsayers; unblinking liars; weavers of mats; cutters of rushes; ink-lipped calligraphers dipping brushes; booksellers ruined by unsold books; ladies-in-waiting; taster; dressers; filching page-boys; runny-nosed cooks; sunless attic nooks where seamstresses prick calloused fingers; limping malingerers; swineherds; swindlers; lip-chewed debtors rich in excuses; heard-it-all creditors tightening nooses; prisoners haunted by happier lives and aging rakes by other men’s wives; skeletal tutors goaded to fits; firemen-turned-looters when occasion permits; tongue-tied witnesses; purchases judges; mothers-in-law nurturing briars and grudges; apothecaries grinding powders with mortars; palanquins carrying not-yet-wed daughters; silent nuns; nine-year-old whores; the once-were-beautiful gnawed by sores; statues of Jizo anointed with posies; syphilitics sneezing through rotten-off noses; potters; barbers; hawkers of oil; tanners; cutlers; carters of night-soil; gate-keepers; bee-keepers; blacksmiths and drapers; torturers; wet-nurses; perjurers; cut-purses; the newborn; the growing; the strong-willed and pliant; the ailing; the dying; the weak and defiant; over the roof of a painter withdrawn first from the world, then his family, and down into a masterpiece that has, in the end, withdrawn from its creator; and around again, where their flight began, over the balcony of the Room of the Last Chrysanthemum, where a puddle from last night’s rain is evaporating; a puddle in which Magistrate Shiroyama observes the blurred reflections of gulls wheeling through spokes of sunlight. This world, he thinks, contains just one masterpiece, and that it itself.

    — David Mitchell, From the veranda of the room of the last chrysanthemum at the magistracy, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (thx)

  7. Of course, the marginalia that corrected, quarrelled, and attacked—’hostile marginalia,’ as they’re called—were the most fun. In William Coleridge’s copy of ‘Joan of Arc,’ by Robert Southey, Coleridge came up with so many objections that he had to abbreviate them, as in ‘L.M., for ‘ludicrous metaphor, and N., for ‘nonsense.’ Like a censorious teacher, Coleridge wrote his comments in red ink, filling the margins and causing him to remark, ‘Mercy on us, if I go on thus I shall make the book what I suppose it never was before, red all thro’.’ As a one-word dismissal, ‘nonsense’ seemed to be the traditional term of art, yielding to its current equivalent only in about the nineteen-seventies; a 1971 copy of a modern poet’s collection of verses featured margins that yelled ‘Bullshit’ in the fevered handwriting of another modern poet. As a marginalia scribbler, Mark Twain was perhaps the most entertaining and voluminous of all, with comments that bloomed from space breaks and chapter headings and end pages, sometimes turning corners and continuing upside down. In Twain’s remarks as he made his way through ‘The Heavenly Twins,’ a now forgotten novel by Sarah Grand, you could see his good-heartedness. He tried to like it, he really did. But finally he just threw up his hands and wrote, at the end of an unusually exasperating chapter, ‘A cat could do better literature than this.’

    — Ian Frazier, “Marginal,” The New Yorker

  8. My T158 is playing someone else’s tune, not mine. I grabbed my CASIO FX 7000 G manual and attempted to input their canned Simpson’s rule program. The Casio then insulted me with a collection of GO and SUN errors. I am going to take a walk with my beagle and maybe fashion an abacus from sticks and dried wild cucumbers.

    — Mr. Joffray to Steven Strogatz, The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life While Corresponding about Math

  9. A small girl with beribboned braids was asked to find the solution of 735352314 times 11. She came up with the correct answer — 8088875454 — in less time than you can say the multiplication table. A thin, studious-looking boy wearing silver-rimmed spectacles was told to multiply 5132437201 times 452736502785. He blitzed through the problem, computing the answer-2323641669144374104785-in seventy seconds.

    — Anne Cutler, Extract from the foreword from Trachtenberg Speed System of Basic Mathematics, translated and adapted by Anne Cutler and Rudolph McShane

  10. I used to be a normal psycholinguistics graduate student. I wanted to study how the mind parses improbable metaphors, unintelligible accents, and quirky syntax. Sexy things. Things that would play out well at parties. I imagined myself magnanimously explaining how sentences like “The bartender served the bourbon fell down the stairs” were truly grammatical. I imagined myself dropping newspaper headlines like “Iraqi Head Seeks Arms” into conversations with beautiful people. I would defend Internet chatroom slang on local radio. I would exchange holiday cards with Steven Pinker.

    — Jessica Love, “They Get to Me,” The American Scholar