Monday, December 11, 2017

Knots were probably the earliest spell

--- T.H. White, quoted by Helen Macdonald in "H is for Hawk", Grove Press, 2014, p. 257. Macdonald gives the reference as "T. H. White, entry dated 22 August 1939 in unpublished manuscript 'Journal 1938--1939', Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin."

"The initiation ceremonies, the boodo hut of the falconer, the noises in the magic dark, the necromantic knots. Knots were probably the earliest spell. The two hawks consider themselves spell-bound to their blocks by my arts . . . I am convinced that if nobody had ever invented knots, nobody would ever have imagined magicians."

(I bought myself "The Handbook of Knots" by Des Pawson for my birthday this year, and have been practicing knots. There is certainly a magic between the steps and the resulting knot.)

(A nice story on knots, and Des Pawson, in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/17/t-magazine/knots-culture-craftsmanship-history-fashion-des-pawson.html)

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The patient can have as many diseases / As the patient damn well pleases

-- Hickam's dictum, cited passim. According to Wikipedia

Hickam's dictum is a counterargument to the use of Occam's razor in the medical profession.[1] While Occam's razor suggests that the simplest explanation is the most likely (implying in medicine that diagnostician should assume a single cause for multiple symptoms), Hickam's dictum is commonly stated: "Patients can have as many diseases as they damn well please". The principle is attributed to John Hickam, MD. When he began saying this is uncertain.
...
 A key reason for using Hickam's dictum as a limiting principle to that of Occam's razor is that it is often statistically more likely that a patient has several common diseases rather than having a single, rarer disease that explains their myriad of symptoms. Another key reason is that, independent of statistical likelihood, some patients do in fact turn out to have multiple diseases. In such cases, multiple categories of diagnosis may indeed have independent causes rather than a single source, i.e., may be due to separate events or combinations of events to which the patient may have been subjected or exposed.

The rhymed version  is cited here, among others.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

these algorithms ... show up when there's a really difficult conversation that people want to avoid

--- Cathy O’Neil, author of the book Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, on the 99 Percent Invisible podcast episode 274, "The Age of the Algorithm", at timecode 10:50

Excerpt:
I feel like, just by observation, that these algorithms, they don't show up randomly. They show up when there's a really difficult conversation that people want to avoid.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context

--- Eliel Saarinen, quoted by Eero Saarinen, "The Maturing Modern," in Time, July 2, 1956:51, cited in Saarinen Houses by Jari Jesonen and Sirkkaliisa Jetsonen, p. 11

Full quote:
Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context—a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The terror you feel in quiet moments is not misplaced, just mistimed.

--- Welcome to Night Vale, written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, episode 42, "Numbers" (transcript; around 6:00)

Quote in context

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Sunday, August 06, 2017

The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life

--- Mohammed Ali, via the Ear Hustle, Episode Two. The quote is given near the end, from about 25:50.

Quote Investigator has the backstory. The first instance was a 1974 quote in a UPI wire story, “If a man looks at the world when he is 50 the same way he looked at it when he was 20 and it hasn’t changed, then be has wasted 30 years of his life.” By November 1975 he'd streamlined it to, The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas

--- Alvar Aalto, quoted in The Pool and the Stream by Avery Trufelman

Extended quote:

"Architecture and its details are in some way all part of biology. Perhaps they are, for instance, like some big salmon or trout. They are not born fully grown; they are not even born in the sea or water where they normally live. They are born hundreds of miles away from their home grounds, where the rivers narrow to tiny streams. Just as it takes time for a speck of fish spawn to mature into a fully-grown fish, so we need time for everything that develops and crystallizes in our world of ideas."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Conway, whom experience had taught that rudeness is by no means a guarantee of good faith, was even less inclined to regard a well-turned phrase as a proof of insincerity.

-- "Glory" Conway, in James Hilton's Lost Horizon, Chapter 10

Laziness in doing stupid things can be a great virtue

--- the High Lama, in James Hilton's Lost Horizon, Chapter 8

In context

Conway was startled by the accuracy of the judgment. "That's so," he replied. "I'm unmarried; I have few close friends and no ambitions.
"No ambitions? And how have you contrived to escape those widespread maladies?" 
For the first time Conway felt that he was actually taking part in a conversation. He said: "It always seemed to me in my profession that a good deal of what passed for success would be rather disagreeable, apart from needing more effort than I felt called upon to make. I was in the Consular Service—quite a subordinate post, but it suited me well enough." 
"Yet your soul was not in it?" 
"Neither my soul nor my heart nor more than half my energies. I'm naturally rather lazy." 
The wrinkles deepened and twisted till Conway realized that the High Lama was very probably smiling. "Laziness in doing stupid things can be a great virtue," resumed the whisper. 

Thursday, June 01, 2017

vices are habits to be corrected, rather than sins to be punished

--- Matthew Treherne, in the BBC In Our Time program on Purgatory, discussing Dante's Purgatorio, at time code 21:07:

Matthew Treherne: Dante divides the mountain into seven terraces, each of which corresponds to a particular vice. 
Melvyn Bragg: Are they the seven deadly sins? 
Treherne: Yes. Dante would think of these as vices, which are habits to be corrected, rather than sins to be punished - that's a really important distinction to what happens in Hell.
According to Wikipedia, "The Roman Catholic Church distinguishes between vice, which is a habit of sin, and the sin itself, which is an individual morally wrong act. ... It is the sin, and not the vice, that deprives one of God's sanctifying grace and renders one deserving of God's punishment. Thomas Aquinas taught that "absolutely speaking, the sin surpasses the vice in wickedness". On the other hand, even after a person's sins have been forgiven, the underlying habit (the vice) may remain."

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Enlightenment is a destructive process

--- Adyashanti, in "The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment", p. 136

Full quote:
Make no mistake about it- enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It's seeing through the facade of pretense. It's the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences

--- William Isaac Thomas and Dorothy Swaine Thomas, the "Thomas theorem" per wikipedia

Cited by Mireille Hildebrandt in David Runciman's Talking Politics podcast episode on Power in the Digital Age, 6 April 2017, around timecode 13:29

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Meaningful prediction does not lie in serving up the present larded with startling improvements or revelations in lieu of the future.

--- Stanisław Lem, quoted by Simon Ings in a profile "Stanisław Lem: The man with the future inside him, " New Scientist, 19 November 2016

In context
Writing in the 1950s, Ray Bradbury predicted earbud headphones and elevator muzak, and foresaw the creeping eeriness of today's media-saturated shopping mall culture. But even Bradbury's guesses – almost everyone's guesses, in fact – tended to exaggerate the contemporary moment. More TV! More suburbia! Videophones and cars with no need of roads. The powerful, topical visions of writers like Frederik Pohl and Arthur C. Clarke are visions of what the world would be like if the 1950s (the 1960s, the 1970s...) went on forever.
And that is why Stanisław Lem, the Polish satirist, essayist, science fiction writer and futurologist, had no time for them. "Meaningful prediction," he wrote, "does not lie in serving up the present larded with startling improvements or revelations in lieu of the future." He wanted more: to grasp the human adventure in all its promise, tragedy and grandeur. He devised whole new chapters to the human story, not happy endings.

More from the piece

Twenty years before the term "virtual reality" appeared, Lem was already writing about its likely educational and cultural effects.

His abiding concern was the way people use reason as a white stick as they steer blindly through a world dominated by chance and accident. This perspective was acquired early, while he was being pressed up against a wall by the muzzle of a Nazi machine gun – just one of several narrow escapes.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Crowds are often mad rather than wise

--- The Economist's review of Douglas Carswell's book "Rebel: How to Overthrow the Emerging Oligarchy" (April 8, 2017)

Quote in context

"Mr Carswell thinks that a new oligarchy is the biggest threat to the welfare of mankind.... Big companies are tightening their hold over the global economy. Established parties are rigging the political system in their own favour. And business and politics are becoming ever more intertwined as companies offer jobs to ex-politicians. Journalists snobbishly dismiss populism as proof that their fellow citizens are bigots rather than as evidence that they are waking up to the fact that the system is rigged. Yet Mr Carswell has no time for the leftist solution—enlisting the state to regulate capitalism and redistribute wealth." 
"Mr Carswell makes his case well. He is right that capitalism is going through a worrying period of concentration: .... He is also right that today’s meritocratic elite is hard to stomach, ... But he is wrong to think that people-power is the answer. There is a good reason that America’s Founding Fathers, whom Mr Carswell so admires, built up checks and balances to the will of the people: the people are often moved by short-term passions, swayed by demagogues, deceived by rumours. Crowds are often mad rather than wise."

Friday, April 14, 2017

Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously -- it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves

--- C.S. Lewis, in the essay "Democratic Education" (1944), with thanks to Pierre-Yves Saintoyant for the reference

In context:
"A mild pleasure in ragging, a determination not to be much interfered with, is a valuable brake on reckless planning and a valuable curb on the meddlesomeness of minor officials. Envy bleating "I'm as good as you", is, on the other hand, the hotbed of Fascism. You are going about to take away the one and foment the other. Democracy demands that little men should not take big ones too seriously -- it dies when it is full of little men who think they are big themselves !!"


Sunday, March 26, 2017

how much of physics is real, and how much of reality is physics?

--- Richard Webb, in a book review in NewScientist, 3 December 2016

Quote in context

A veteran of particle physics and cosmology behind at least two Nobel-prizewinning strands of research, [Richard] Muller [author of "Now: The physics of time"] isn’t pouring cold water on an entire discipline. But he is addressing a theme that, one way or another, exercises him and the authors of three other major new books: how much of physics is real, and how much of reality is physics?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Disciplines are now defined too much by methods rather than by questions

--- Economist Hamish Low, in Exams and Expectations: The art and science of economics at Cambridge, The Economist, 24 December 2016

Quote in context:

Hamish Low, a Cambridge professor who works in applied economics, does not mourn the loss of philosopher kings’ grand intellectual debates. “Now we need to be much more evidence based”, he says. But the discipline’s development has come with a cost. The specialisation associated with expertise can encourage narrow thinking. “Disciplines are now defined too much by methods rather than by questions”, Low says. This narrowness feeds through to policy advice, which too often applies established models to current circumstances, rather than considering fundamental reinterpretions of the issues. Economists can give you an estimate of how much revenue a tax increase will raise, the income loss associated with Brexit, or the employment effects of a minimum wage rise. It calls to mind another aphorism from Keynes about economists being at their best as “humble, competent people on a level with dentists”, using their technical skill to solve pressing problems within a limited area of expertise.

Monday, March 06, 2017

since he made only what he wanted, what he could comprehend, he learned nothing

--- Stanislaw Lem, from "Doctor Diagoras" in Memoirs of a Space Traveler, transl. Joel Stern and Maria Swiecicka-Ziemianek, p. 127

Quoting Dr. Diagoras

"Corcoran wasn't seeking knowledge; he merely wanted to create what he had planned, and since he made only what he wanted, what he could comprehend, he learned nothing and proved nothing except that he is a skillful technician. I am much less confident than Corcoran. I say: I don't know, but I want to know. Building a manlike machine, a grotesque rival for the good things of this world, would be ordinary imitation."

Friday, March 03, 2017

"Sire, do you like yourself?" "What's not to like?"

--- Exchange between Nathaniel and Prince Edward in the 2007 movie Enchanted

Nathaniel: Sire, do you like yourself?
Prince Edward: What's not to like?

Monday, January 09, 2017

A man may search for a shilling and find a sovereign. The important thing is to search

--- Parasitologist Patrick Manson, quoted in EPOD's "Accidental Discoveries: Unusual Salt Crystal Whiskers," January 09, 2017

It's also quoted in Tales from the Torrid Zone: Travels in the Deep Tropics by Alexander Frater

Weeks later, after his wife complained about the smell, he saw the eggs had grown into creatures he reckoned to be embryonic lung flukes that had originated in snails. Snails? How did he know? In truth he didn't; snails had been an inspired guess yet, later, he would be proved right on both counts—and find himself the first person in history studying the lung fluke' s life cycle. An organism lurking in bad water and uncooked food, it becomes a worm in the gut, reaches the lungs after penetrating the intestinal wall, in a few cases continues upwards to lay its eggs in the dark little cerebellic burrows of the brain. 
Manson, contemplating another big breakthrough, denied luck had anything to do with it. "A man may search for a shilling," he said, "and find a sovereign. The important thing is to search." 
Of the forty diseases that flourish between the ecliptics Manson studied no fewer than a quarter and created a more profound understanding of them all. Giant statues should be raised to him throughout the region.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others

-- Etty Hillesum, from Etty Hillesum: An Interrupted Life the Diaries, 1941-1943 and Letters from Westerbork, p. 218

Quote in context

29 September. You often said, "This is a sin against the spirit, it will be avenged." Every sin against the spirit will be avenged, in man himself and in the world outside. 
Let me just note down one more thing for myself: Matthew 6:34: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 
We have to fight them daily, like fleas, those many small worries about the morrow, for they sap our energies. We make mental provision for the days to come, and everything turns out differently, quite differently. Sufficient unto the day. The things that have to be done must be done, and for the rest we must not allow ourselves to become infested with thousands of petty fears and worries, so many motions of no confidence in God. Everything will turn out all right with my residence permit and with my ration book; right now there's no point in brooding about it, and I would do much better to write a Russian essay. Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it toward others. And the more there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world


Sunday, October 23, 2016

It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

--- Eugene Wigner, quoted in Physics Today, July 1993 according to quote-wise.com

Found via a letter to New Scientist from Richard Cragg (13 Aug 2016, issue #3086):
Thank you for Regina Peldszus's review of Samuel Arbesman's book warning that we have reached the stage where very few “experts” really understand the complexity of the software systems they have installed to control critical parts of our infrastructure (23 July, p 42). This reminds me of the lament of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner: “It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

--- Eugene Wigner, quoted in Physics Today, July 1993 according to quote-wise.com

Found via a letter to New Scientist from Richard Cragg (13 Aug 2016, issue #3086):
Thank you for Regina Peldszus's review of Samuel Arbesman's book warning that we have reached the stage where very few “experts” really understand the complexity of the software systems they have installed to control critical parts of our infrastructure (23 July, p 42). This reminds me of the lament of Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner: “It is nice to know that the computer understands the problem. But I would like to understand it too.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

opinions embedded in math

--- Cathy O'Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, in an interview with IEEE Spectrum, October 2016

Quote in context

One of the things that makes big data so attractive is the assumption that it’s eliminating human subjectivity and bias. After all, you’re basing everything on hard numbers from the real world, right? Wrong. Predictive models and algorithms, says O’Neil, are really just “opinions embedded in math.” Algorithms are written by human beings with an agenda. The very act of defining what a successful algorithm looks like is a value judgement; and what counts as success for the builders of the algorithm (frequently profit, savings, or efficiency) is not always good for society at large.

Monday, October 03, 2016

I suspect that whatever cannot be said clearly is probably not being thought clearly either

--- Peter Singer in "Ethics in the Real World: 82 Brief Essays on Things That Matter" (2016), quoted in The Economist review 17 September 2016

In the context of the review:

Mr Singer’s latest book, “Ethics in the Real World”, is a collection of 82 essays, each rarely more than three or four pages long. As such, it is an accessible introduction to the work of a philosopher who would not regard being described as “accessible” as an insult. As Mr Singer notes drily in the introduction, “I suspect that whatever cannot be said clearly is probably not being thought clearly either.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

not just San Francisco, but the entirety of Earth, is becoming uninhabitable to anyone who doesn’t make their living writing code all goddamned day

--- comedian/writer Megan Koester, quoted in The boho-drain: bohemians say goodbye San Francisco, hello LA, The Guardian, 26 September 2016

In context

A tip for newcomers: don’t marvel at cheap LA rents, because they’re not. Rents have soared in recent years. They still lag San Francisco but average incomes lag even more, so on that basis LA is actually less affordable.
 “Whenever anyone, from anywhere, moves into my city with a Camry and a dream, I can feel my cost of living increase,” Megan Koester, a comedian and writer, said via email. Even unglamorous San Fernando Valley has become pricey. “I tried to find an apartment there ... and everything was out of my range. Do you know how humbling it is to be priced out of the fucking Valley?”
San Francisco-esque cafes and restaurants were mushrooming, lamented Koester. “The kinds of places where pour over coffee is $7 and every table has a succulent on it. I don’t know if this can be blamed on the transplants, or on the fact that not just San Francisco, but the entirety of Earth, is becoming uninhabitable to anyone who doesn’t make their living writing code all goddamned day.”

Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for

--- CG Jung, from The Tower, chapter VIII in Memories, Dreams, Reflections (1961,revised edition,  ppbk 1989), recorded and edited by Aniela Jaffé, transl. Richard and Clara Winston

In context:

… We refuse to recognize that everything better is purchased at the price of something worse; that, for example, the hope of greater freedom is canceled out by increased enslavement to the state, not to speak of the terrible perils to which the most brilliant discoveries of science expose us. The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves, and thus we help with all our might to rob the individual of his roots and his guiding instincts, so that he becomes a particle in the mass, ruled only by what Nietzsche called the spirit of gravity. 
Reforms by advances, that is, by new methods or gadgets, are of course impressive at first, but in the long run they are dubious and in any case dearly paid for. They by no means increase the contentment or happiness of people on the whole. Mostly, they are deceptive sweetenings of existence, like speedier communications which unpleasantly accelerate the tempo of life and leave us with less time than ever before. Omnis festinatio ex parte diaboli est—all haste is of the devil, as the old masters used to say.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.

--- Tim Urban, in Religion for the Nonreligious, Wait But Why 2014

In context:

Nothing clears fog like a deathbed, which is why it’s then that people can always see with more clarity what they should have done differently—I wish I had spent less time working; I wish I had communicated with my wife more; I wish I had traveled more; etc. The goal of personal growth should be to gain that deathbed clarity while your life is still happening so you can actually do something about it.
An interesting resonance with S.N. Goenka's book, The Art of Dying.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Just as a pot filled with water if overturned by anyone, pours out all its water … when you see those in need … then give like the overturned pot

--- The Buddha, Jātaka Nidānakathā 128, 129, quoted in Gemstones of the Good Dhamma, An Anthology of Verses from the Pali Scriptures, compiled and translated by Ven. S. Dhammika, The Wheel Publication No. 342/344

31. Yathapi kumbho sampunno
yassa kassaci adhokato
vamate udakam nissesam
na tattha parirakkhati.

Just as a pot filled with water
if overturned by anyone,
pours out all its water
and does not hold any back.


32. Tath'eva yacke disva
hinamukkatthamajjhime
dadahi danam nissesam
kumbho viya adhokato.

Even so, when you see those in need,
whether low, middle or high,
then give like the overturned pot,
holding nothing back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

He was a born columnist – keen to tell people what to think, and very good at expressing it in 800 words"

--- George Brock, former managing editor at The Times, about Michael Gove, in "A Leaver's lesson in political justice" by Henry Mance, The Financial Times, 2/3 July 2016

Sunday, August 21, 2016

[the bed where] we forget, for one half of our life's duration, the sorrows of the other half

---  Xavier de Maistre, "Voyage Around My Room" (1794)

In context:

Heading north from my armchair, we discover my bed, which sits at the back of the room and creates a most agreeable perspective: it is most  felicitously situated, receiving the morning sun's first rays as they shine  through my curtains. . . . ls there any theater that better quickens the imagination, that more effectively awakens thoughts of tenderness, than  the piece of furniture in which I sometimes find oblivion? . . . And it is in this cradle of delight that we forget, for one half of our life's duration, the sorrows of the other  half.—Yet what a host of thoughts both pleasant and sad rush all at once  into my brain! What a bewildering mix of frightful and delightful situations! A bed witnesses our birth and it witnesses our death: it is the ever-changing theater where the human species enacts, by turns, . . . 

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demi-gods on stilts

--- Albert Einstein, in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (2012, ppbk), p. 196

Quote in context:
Princeton, Einstein reported to his friend Elizabeth, the Queen of Belgium, "is a wonderful little spot, a quaint and ceremonious village of puny demi-gods on stilts. Yet, by ignoring certain social conventions, I have been able to create for myself an atmosphere conducive to study and free from dis- traction."

Sunday, June 05, 2016

He did a great deal of good —far too much—and as a result was usually irritable

--- Carl Jung, from "Memories, Dreams, Reflections", transl. by Richard and Clara Winston, p. 91 (from the chapter, Student Years)

Quote in context:
During the years 1892—94 I had a number of rather vehement discussions with my father. He had studied Oriental languages in Göttingen and had done his dissertation on the Arabic version of the Song of Songs. His days of glory had ended with his final examination. Thereafter he forgot his linguistic talent. As a country parson he lapsed into a sort of sentimental idealism and into reminiscences of his golden student days, continued to smoke a long student's pipe, and discovered that his marriage was not all he had imagined it to be. He did a great deal of good —far too much—and as a result was usually irritable. Both parents made great efforts to live devout lives, with the result that there were angry scenes between them only too frequently.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

a book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul

--- Franz Kafka, quoted by Irina Bukova on the occasion of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April 2016 (pdf)

According to Cori Schumacher: "From a letter to Oskar Pollak dated January 27, 1904. It was written in Russian and there are various translations for it."

This is also stated on https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Franz_Kafka, where a variety of variant translations are given:


  • I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us.
  • If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us.
  • What we need are books that hit us like a most painful misfortune, like the death of someone we loved more than we love ourselves, that make us feel as though we had been banished to the woods, far from any human presence, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us.
  • A book should be an ice-axe to break the frozen sea within us.
  • A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.
  • A book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

the whole world is drowned in the permanent present

--- Johnny Clegg, NPR interview, April 9, 2016, at 5:36

"I think also, the whole world is drowned in the permanent present. I don't think people have a sense of history, any more. I think everyone needs a refresher course in understanding that things, as we have them today, we went through quite a struggle to get here. . . It didn't arrive here on its own."

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Computers are not great for storing secrets

--- The Economist, Data breaches in America: The rise of the hacker, 7 Nov 2015

In context:

Computers are not great for storing secrets. The number of reported data breaches at organisations in America hit a record high of 783 in 2014 according to the Identity Theft Resource Centre, an industry body. It defines a data breach as the loss of information from computers or storage media that could potentially lead to identity theft, including social-security numbers, bank-account details, driving-licence numbers and medical information. 
Since 2005 there have been more than 5,000 known incidents of this type, involving an estimated 675m individual records. The real figures are likely to be far higher: many firms fail to report data thefts, since the consequences of disclosure can be severe. 

Friday, November 06, 2015

Rather than building ‘superfast’ networks, what we are really building are ‘superidle’ ones

--- Martin Geddes, My Great Telco Debate homework, 23 Sep 2015

Quote in context
There is a ‘cycle of doom’ that telcos are stuck in, whereby they are attempting to use capacity to overcome contention effects. With each cycle, the effectiveness of the over-provisioning declines. Rather than building ‘superfast’ networks, what we are really building are ‘superidle’ ones.

Please don’t tell the investors though, as they might cut off the supply of pension funds that we are busy turning into muddy holes and underused equipment. That might be a bit too uncomfortable. The way to avoid their ire is to treat contention issues with better scheduling, not cheaper capital.
More from this piece
The issue they face is that the industry is configured to be supply-led with one-size-fits-all products. We have been a ‘built it and they will (and did) come’ business. The primary task has been to build capacity, and the primary risk has been that there won’t be enough customers to pay back the sunk investment. The roles, responsibilities and incentives inside an operator are all configured towards managing those two goals.
The power and profit going forward is in the systems that match supply to demand, and the markets that form around them. Networks are going from a ‘pipe’ metaphor to a ‘resource trading platform’ one. SDN and NFV are just a part of this puzzle. They offer the mechanisms needed to exploit some of the 'trades' at some of the timescales. Much more is possible.


Whatever you do, when they're talking to you: For god's sakes, lie!

=== 3 Dead Trolls in a Baggie, The Privacy Song, video

A few more excerpts
"We can beat them back with bullshit"
"They can take away or privacy, but they can't have the truth"
"Let's face it, there's only one magical person who knows all our secrets -- and if Santa ever does sell his database, we're all screwed"

Afrikaans moet vrede maak en uitreik en deel word van die swartheid van die land

--- Antjie Krog gedurende die Vierde Swart Afrikaanse Skrywersimposium, Universiteit van Wes-Kaapland, 2 - 3 Oktober 2015. Bron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Rq4vTGEdEE&t=1m16s.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Science is an ongoing race between our inventing ways to fool ourselves, and our inventing ways to avoid fooling ourselves

--- Saul Perlmutter, astrophysicist, quoted in How scientists fool themselves – and how they can stop, Nature News October 7,2015

Context

“People forget that when we talk about the scientific method, we don't mean a finished product,” says Saul Perlmutter, an astrophysicist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Science is an ongoing race between our inventing ways to fool ourselves, and our inventing ways to avoid fooling ourselves.” So researchers are trying a variety of creative ways to debias data analysis — strategies that involve collaborating with academic rivals, getting papers accepted before the study has even been started and working with strategically faked data.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The art of not reading is a very important one

--- Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays & Aphorisms 16

Quote in context

The art of not reading is a very important one. It consists in not taking an interest in whatever may be engaging the attention of the general public at any particular time. When some political or ecclesiastical pamphlet, or novel, or poem is making a great commotion, you should remember that he who writes for fools always finds a large public. — A precondition for reading good books is not reading bad ones: for life is short.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will

--- Epictetus, quoted by Leo Babauta in How to Deal with Your Family’s Bad Habits, from zenhabits August 26, 2015.

I couldn't find a citation for this quote, which appears everywhere on the web. It appears to be a paraphrase of a section in the Discourses; from the Project Gutenberg "A Selection from the Discourses of Epictetus with the Encheiridion, translated by George Long":

HOW WE MUST EXERCISE OURSELVES AGAINST APPEARANCES ([Greek: phantasias]).—As we exercise ourselves against sophistical questions, so we ought to exercise ourselves daily against appearances; for these appearances also propose questions to us. A certain person's son is dead. Answer; the thing is not within the power of the will: it is not an evil. A father has disinherited a certain son. What do you think of it? It is a thing beyond the power of the will, not an evil. Cæsar has condemned a person. It is a thing beyond the power of the will, not an evil. The man is afflicted at this. Affliction is a thing which depends on the will: it is an evil. He has borne the condemnation bravely. That is a thing within the power of the will: it is a good. If we train ourselves in this manner, we shall make progress; for we shall never assent to anything of which there is not an appearance capable of being comprehended. Your son is dead. What has happened? Your son is dead. Nothing more? Nothing. Your ship is lost. What has happened? Your ship is lost. A man has been led to prison. What has happened? He has been led to prison. But that herein he has fared badly, every man adds from his own opinion. But Zeus, you say, does not do right in these matters. Why? because he has made you capable of endurance? because he has made you magnanimous? because he has taken from that which befalls you the power of being evils? because it is in your power to be happy while you are suffering what you suffer? because he has opened the door to you, when things do not please you? Man, go out and do not complain!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

deep blue clarities of a delighting mind

--- Robert Conquest, quoted in the obituary by Charlemagne in The Economist, 15 August 2015.

From the column:

When the Soviet archives opened, his meticulous work was utterly vindicated. His books were published in Russia, and he brought out updated editions in English. Mulling a new title for “The Great Terror”, his pal Kingsley Amis suggested “I told you so, you fucking fools”. He preferred derision to self-righteousness, summarising Soviet Communism in a much-quoted limerick:
There was a great Marxist called Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in,
But where he did one in
That grand Marxist Stalin did ten in.
The kind of people who overlooked such trifles, he reckoned, were also willing to scrub their minds on other issues. He despised much modern literary criticism: it used “important” freely but shunned “beautiful”. For him, the great pursuit was the “deep blue clarities of a delighting mind”. He wrote: “Just as it is people who think they have discovered the laws of history who have, in our time, inflicted our major public catastrophes so—in a lesser field, or at least one in which the results are not so literally bloody—it is those who think they have discovered the laws of literature who have been the destroyers.”

Another lovely little poem quoted, "Sooner or Later", introduced as follows: "Having seen where grand designs led, he cherished scepticism and moderation."

What’s helpful? Not much. Nothing?
But to fill in the time
There’s little harm in clothing
Such nude truths with a rhyme.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

with Moore’s law of technological progress comes Moore’s outlaw

--- Marc Goodman, interviewed in New Scientist, A cybercrime wave is coming – brace yourself, 8 April 2015

Quote in context:
In the old days, you buy a gun or a knife, you go hide in a dark alley until some sucker walks by and you say, “Give me your wallet”. Good business model, but you can only rob four or five people a day. However, with Moore’s law of technological progress comes Moore’s outlaw, and so we’re seeing a paradigm shift in crime. In one hack of the US retailer Target in 2013, over a third of Americans were victims, including tens of millions of people who had their bank details stolen. So one individual can now rob 100 million people. That has never been possible before and it’s because we’re all connected via vulnerable technology.

Another good quote:
The internet is about to get a whole lot bigger. . . . Every grain of sand on our planet could have its own internet address a trillion times over. Previously, I never had to worry about a hackable television, a hackable pacemaker, a hackable car, a hackable pet. But now all of this is possible. We’ve wired the world but failed to secure it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jewish is not a religion, it is an opportunity to travel

--- Ilya Kaminsky, quoted by Breyten Breytenbach in Dancing in Other Words, 'n Nabetragting van 'n Klein Reis, Versindaba, May 2014

Source:

Ilya says : « Jewish is not a religion, it is an opportunity to travel. »

The blog this is taken from appears to be a record of the 2014 "Dancing in Other Words" poetry festival near Stellenbosch, South Africa; see e.g. http://slipnet.co.za/view/event/dancing-in-other-words-2/.

Jy moet diffuus wees soos kladpapier

--- Breyten Breytenbach, in Dancing in Other Words, 'n Nabetragting van 'n Klein Reis, Versindaba, May 2014

In context:
Dis die tussen-inne wat tel, die gleuwe, die voeë en die voue, die kreukels, die epentese in woorde, die amperse epigrawe en die epiloë en die epitawe en die epsomsout, die insetsels en (tot ‘n mate) die byvoegsels.
Wat bly oor wanneer jy jou tussen wêrelde/ideologië/geskiedenisse/tale/stoele bevind ? Nog net beweging en ‘n absolute sin van syn. Oftewel, dat jy jou aanmekaar moet posisioneer. Die gat sal moet leer om van draad te hou.
Maar wat is die dissipline ? Hoe word dit gedoen ?
Dis om die fokus net effens te verskuif, om laterale visie te ontwikkel, om te hoor sonder om te luister in watter boom uit watter kloof die nagtegaal sing. Die beweging wat jy dan optel, die stoornis, is met verwysing na die sentrale fokuspunt, sê maar die doelwit, die bekende of die verwagte. Die betekenis…
Jy moet diffuus wees soos kladpapier. Die belange-hiërargie van wat jy waarneem moet ontdaan en ongedaan gemaak word.
The centre must no longer hold in order for new shapes to emerge.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

It is an illusion to believe that you can be happy when no one else is. Or that other people will not be affected by your unhappiness.

--- Tor Nørretranders, in Altruismhttps://edge.org/response-detail/25500

A few excerpts:

What needs to go away is the basic idea behind the concept of altruism: the idea that there is a conflict of interest between helping yourself and helping others.
The starting point is neither selfishness nor altruism, but the state of being bound together. It is an illusion to believe that you can be happy when no one else is. Or that other people will not be affected by your unhappiness.
Therefore a simple rules applies: Everyone feels better when you are well. You feel better when everyone is well.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Difficult is life for the modest one

--- Dhammapada 18.245, via Daily Words of the Buddha for September 27, 2013
Hirīmatā ca dujjīvaṃ
niccaṃ sucigavesinā,
alīnenāppagabbhena,
suddhājīvena passatā.
Difficult is life for the modest one
who always seeks purity,
is detached and unassuming,
clean in life, and discerning.
View Pāli on Tipitaka.org