EppsNet Archive: Mark Twain

Huckleberry Finn Banned Again

A Pennsylvania high school has removed Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its 11th-grade curriculum after complaints from students who said they were made “uncomfortable” by the novel. The school’s principal defended the decision to remove the book from the curriculum. “I do not believe that we’re censoring,” he said. “I really do believe that this is an opportunity for the school to step forward and listen to the students.” He went on to add, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” Because if suppression of material you deem objectionable is not censoring, what is? As Kurt Vonnegut used to say, “Have somebody read the First Amendment to the United States Constitution out loud to you, you God damned fool!” Read more →

All the Talk About Tolerance

All the talk about tolerance, in anything or anywhere, is plainly a gentle lie. It does not exist. It is in no man’s heart; but it unconsciously, and by moss-grown inherited habit, drivels and slobbers from all men’s lips. — Mark Twain’s Autobiography Read more →

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man’s side, consequently on the Lord’s side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments. — Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 Read more →

Joyce Carol Oates Gets Slammed

EppsNet stands behind Joyce Carol Oates in this Twitstorm, in opposition to those who think that while raping women may be a bad thing, what’s really deplorable is freedom of thought and questioning theocracy. In solidarity, we publish a couple of previously unseen (because they’re terrible) photos of the two of us taken with Mark Twain in the Doe Library at UC Berkeley. Read more →

The Lightning-Bug and the Lightning

This picture was taken just after I said to Mark Twain, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter — it’s the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” And Twain said, “That’s a good one! I’ve got to write that down!” Actually, the Twain statue is just inside the main entrance of Doe Library at UC Berkeley. I asked the nerdy-looking Asian girl at the front desk, “Who’s the guy on the bench?” She stared at me for a second. “Kidding,” I said. “At first, I thought it was Albert Einstein,” she said, “so it doesn’t surprise me when people don’t know.” Read more →

The Secret of Getting Ahead

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one. — Mark Twain Read more →

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect. — Mark Twain

Happy Father’s Day

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years. — Mark Twain A wise son maketh a glad father. — Proverbs 10:1 Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later . . . that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called ‘Being a Father’ so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. —Tom… Read more →

Huck Finn Uses the N-Word

My son had an assignment this weekend to write an essay on cultural values vs. personal values in Huckleberry Finn. The teacher didn’t assign the whole book, just an excerpt in which Huck has to decide whether or not to send Jim, the escaped slave, back to Miss Watson. So I read through the excerpt and sure enough, it includes multiple uses of what’s now known as “the N-word.” I asked the boy, “Did Mr. Murano discuss with you guys about Mark Twain’s use of the word ‘nigger’?” “No,” he said. “But in case you hadn’t noticed, our school is mostly Asian. Now if Mark Twain had overused the word ‘chink,’ then we’d have a problem.” Read more →

The Way to Write English

I notice that you use plain, simple English, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. — Mark Twain   Enron’s performance in 2000 was a success by any measure, as we continued to outdistance the competition and solidify our leadership in each of our major businesses. We have robust networks of strategic assets that we own or have contractual access to, which give us greater flexibility and speed to reliably deliver widespread logistical solutions. . . . We have metamorphosed from an asset-based pipeline and power generating company to a marketing and logistics company whose biggest assets are its well-established business approach and its innovative people. — Enron Annual Report, 2000 Source: Why Business People Speak Like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide by Brian Fugere, Chelsea… Read more →

Massive Accountability

Maybe you’ve noticed that most software sucks. Maybe you’ve wondered — if you work in the software business — why our aspirations are so low compared with the possibilities of our profession. Maybe you’ve wondered what, if anything, could be done about this. Here’s a fun story about the benefits of really holding people accountable for the shoddy quality of their work. In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain wrote about King Xerxes, who in the 5th Century BC ordered a bridge of boats to be built across the Hellespont: A moderate gale destroyed the flimsy structure, and the King, thinking that to publicly rebuke the contractors might have a good effect on the next set, called them out before the army and had them beheaded. In the next ten minutes he let a new contract for the bridge. It has been observed by ancient writers that the second bridge was… Read more →

This Date in History

On this date in 1884, the cornerstone was laid for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. (We got the statue for free — the pedestal we had to pay for.) One of the most historic fundraisers was the Pedestal Art Loan Exhibition, to which Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and others donated manuscripts for auction. Emma Lazarus donated a poem called “The New Colossus,” which sold for $1,500, but was mostly forgotten until 1945, when it was inscribed over the main entrance at the base of the statue. Read more →

The Programming Circus

Most of my illustrious career has been spent working or consulting for Fortune 1000 companies. These companies are fundamentally dependent on their computer systems, particularly their online systems, to transact business. If the systems are down, the business stops running. In fact, the systems don’t even have to be down to create havoc. What if the response time is too slow? If you’ve ever done user testing with people whose job it is to enter money-making financial transactions for large corporations, you may have been amazed, as I was, at how fast they are. Obviously then, the software you build for them has to be even faster; split-second response time is required. If your software is slowing people down, the business is losing money. Or what if people are sitting around staring at their monitors because they can’t figure out how that great new interface you gave them is supposed… Read more →