Reporter's Notebook

Andrea Comas / Reuters
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An ongoing collection of the best things we hear from our sources. (Earlier archive here.)

Show 9 Newer Notes

Quoted: The Unpredictable Edition

Susana Vera / Reuters

“When people choose a wealth manager … they have to pick someone they want to know everything about them: about Mother’s lesbian affairs, Brother’s drug addiction, the spurned lovers bursting into the room,” a wealth manager based in London.

“Now that [our children] are parents themselves, we’re very careful not to talk about it because we can upset them very easily,” Sarah Levine, an anthropologist, on researching parenting around the world with her husband.

“This article is comforting in a way I did not anticipate,” —an Atlantic reader, on reading about what it feels like to die.

“Once you get yourself on that path where you’re willing to find something delightful in laundry and in dishwashers, it means that you train yourself to be able to find it almost anywhere in almost anything,” Ian Bogost, who studies play.

“When I was 9 years old my mother went to a child psychologist and said, ‘I got this 9-year-old boy, and all he wants to do is hang around a funeral home.’ That guy said, ‘Well, he’ll outgrow that,’” Bob Arrington, a funeral director.

“School segregation is so bad [in Washington, D.C.] that you literally can tell what school kids are going to based on what color they are,” Natalie Hopkinson, a D.C. parent and journalist.

“A lot of people who are on the outside picture sororities at every school, including Princeton, as just craft-making, hand-clapping, hair-braiding types of groups,” Devon Naftzger, an investment-banking analyst and former CEO of a Princeton sorority chapter.

“Frankly, in the beginning, we thought we wouldn’t find anything and that it was probably a waste of time,” Naci Mocan, an economics professor, on a study of how college football scores affect judicial decisions—in which he found that judges issue harsher sentences after disappointing losses.

“It’s like a game of bacterial whack-a-mole. We hit them with bigger and bigger hammers, and they wear better and better hats,” Michael Baym, a biologist, on how bacteria evolve to resist antibiotics.

People need to stop talking about this and start saying ‘the next industrial revolution could release humanity’s full creative potential,’”an Atlantic reader, on the prediction that the next industrial revolution could put millions out of work.

“The chemicals in your brain learn what it feels like to have sex, and they want to have sex again. So it’s best to not have it at all,” Misty Stewart, a sex-education instructor in Odessa, Texas.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

“I want to literally make people smarter by jamming things in their brains,” Vivienne Ming, a theoretical neurophysicist.

“A day doesn’t go by that I don’t see people come in with Q-tip-related injuries,” Jennifer Derebery, an inner-ear specialist.

“If someone was to say something about broccoli, you wouldn’t feel sucked into the argument,” Anita Vangelisti, who studies interpersonal interactions.

“I don’t care if it’s your toaster or your car … if it acts in strange or unpredictable ways, it’s not acceptable,” Chris Rockwell, who created a design consulting firm.

“As our family doctor put it, the main cause of tumor growth is: living,” an Atlantic reader, on the FDA’s recall of chemicals used in antibacterial soap.

Tomas Bravo / Reuters

“Guess what? It’s like Ghostbusters, man. When there’s a problem anywhere else, call Ghostbusters. We’re Ghostbusters,” Joe Biden, vice president of the U.S., on America’s international role.

“Our market is to appeal to a very irrational customer,” Randy Treibel, who buys Trump and Sanders campaign merchandise in bulk to sell on Amazon.

“Oh shit, I might’ve started a church,” —what Jodi Houge, a Lutheran pastor, said when people began attending her weekly services in a coffee shop.

Anthony Devlin / Reuters

We expect women to be primarily responsible for child care. When men ‘help out’ they get brownie points,” Christin Munsch, a sociologist.

“A 100:1 sex ratio was too good to miss,” —Greg Hurst, an evolutionary biologist, on why he chose to study blue moon butterflies, which are overwhelmingly female.

“What I don’t think people appreciate about farming is that it’s very cerebral,”—Chris Holman, who left academia to become a farmer.

“Please do not assume that you are the sole arbiter of morality,” —an Atlantic reader and comment moderator on the morality of the U.S. drone war.

John Vizcaino / Reuters

“The classroom has to be the space where everybody comes and is uncomfortable,” Tressie McMillan Cottom, a sociology professor

“We thought this would be a way to help them … try to avoid interactions with large whales,” Mark Baumgartner, a marine ecologist, on placing a whale-tracking buoy in a Coast Guard training range.

“It’s actually very difficult to draw lines between right and wrong in an area where we’re essentially saying two things at once: Be aggressive, take risks, make money—but don't hurt people while you're doing it,” Sam Buell, a law professor, on white-collar crime.

“Rising cost of university + falling membership in the middle class equals terrified parents who create anxious kids. Guilty,” an Atlantic reader on the stress of student success.

Policemen try to remove a pig from a street in Seoul on February 12, 2007 Lee Jae Won / Reuters

Voted off the island: “It was just surprising how the necessity of removing pigs wasn’t a widely shared viewpoint,” Scott Morrison, a biologist, on recovering endangered species on an island overrun with invasive feral pigs.

All opposed, say nay: “That is 100 percent not a thing,” Josh Connolly, a congressional staffer, on the legislation allegedly nicknamed “the Gawker Bill.”

Doctor, do you concur? “[It requires] training the algorithm so it can say, ‘This is a wound that looks like it will heal,’” Jonathan Kanevsky, a plastic surgeon, on teaching computers to evaluate burns.

Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Keep it legal: “If our clients were doing what the police are doing, it’d be called robbery.” James King, a public defender in Washington, D.C., on property seizures

Keep on track: “You don’t just go up to a random mountain and start digging. You go up to the ones that are most promising.” Martin Elvis, an astronomer, on the search for natural resources in space

Keep it real: “What you don’t see from Chevrolet is a lot of CGI wizbangery. We are about real things. But it has to be dramatic!” Steve Majoros, the marketing director of Chevrolet, on the company’s ads

NASA / Reuters

Out of this world: “Frankly, I feel like I’ve been transported to very deep outer space,” Dan Rather, a TV anchorman, on writing a viral Facebook post.

Out of our heads: “If we don’t panic a little bit, we’ll never get anywhere,” Chris Goldfinger, a geologist, on preparing for a major earthquake in the Pacific Northwest.

Out of patience: “At a certain point you kind of have to pay for your own sanity, you know?” Dulce-Marie Flecha, who taught public school in New York City, on why she quit.

Jason Reed / Reuters

Unwanted advice: “Hawaii [is] a great place to come vacation before you go to prison,” Andrew Snyder, a therapist who preps white-collar criminals for prison time.

Unneeded advice: “When I first saw that, I remember saying: Stop, you will kill your own egg!Niclas Fritzén, an entomologist, on how wasps sew spiders’ nests over their eggs.

Unheeded advice: “We’re all pretty glad that Monet and Da Vinci didn’t go to a school that said, ‘You need to [paint] in this way to meet a rubric,’” Timothy Brophy, a music professor and assessment expert.


Wind, fall: “Treats and vices. Last month, I bought a yo-yo,” Adder, who lives in a utopian community, on how he spends his money.

Buying time: “I do worry that this will be an excuse for a big spend-fest,” Stephen Moore, a conservative economist, on Donald Trump’s ambitious infrastructure plans.

Over budget: “That might fly in Scandinavia, but not here,” Peter Muennig, a professor of public-health policy, on the cost of replacing lead pipes in homes across the U.S.

Jorge Adorno / Reuters

When you don’t know what you don’t know: “[It] is too easy to say, ‘Oh, I don’t know what I’m doing. Everything is magical and I don’t understand it,’” Samuel Arbesman, who studies technology.

When what you don’t know can’t hurt you: “It’s one of the few times in medicine that it’s far more important to begin treatment and ask questions later,” Jason Persoff, a professor of medicine, on cardiac arrest.

...and when it comes back to haunt you: “What’s been going on with the presidential discourse has allowed this alligator to crawl out of the swamp. It’s been living there. We haven’t been seeing it. We haven’t been focused on it much. But now it’s back,” Caroline Fayard, who is running for U.S. senator in Louisiana, on her opponent, white supremacist David Duke.