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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

the pollution problem
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:58 pm EDT, Nov  1, 2013

Bruce Schneier:

I have previously characterized this model of computing as "feudal." Users pledge their allegiance to more powerful companies who, in turn, promise to protect them from both sysadmin duties and security threats. It's a metaphor that's rich in history and in fiction, and a model that's increasingly permeating computing today.

Susan Signe Morrison:

Filth in all its manifestations -- material (including privies, dung on fields, and as alchemical ingredient), symbolic (sin, misogynist slander, and theological wrestling with the problem of filth in sacred contexts) and linguistic (a semantic range including dirt and dung) -- helps us to see how excrement is vital to understanding the Middle Ages.

Bruce Schneier:

Data is the pollution problem of the information age.

A contrarian's tweet:

Big Data, n.: the belief that any sufficiently large pile of s—-- contains a pony.

working like a charm
Topic: Miscellaneous 10:54 pm EDT, Oct 29, 2013

Caterina Fake:

Much more important than working hard is knowing how to find the right thing to work on.

Samuel Arbesman:

You can't just go fishing for correlations and hope they will explain the world. If you're not careful, you'll end up with spurious correlations. Even more important, to contend with the "why" of things, we still need ideas, hypotheses and theories. If you don't have good questions, your results can be silly and meaningless.

An exchange:

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The "Bear Patrol" is working like a charm!
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: [uncomprehendingly] Thanks, honey.

Lawrence Lessig:

In the academy, there is no truth without a statistical regression. So few will risk reputation or promotion by speculating beyond the facts that SPSS will whisper.

But in the middle of a crisis, certainty is an expensive luxury, and one we can't afford anymore. We need to tackle the problems that explain most of our problems first, and soon.

Dan Geer:

We learned in the financial crisis that there are levels of achievable financial return that require levels of unsustainable financial risk. If we can, for the moment, think of data as a kind of money, then investing too much our own data in an institution too big to influence is just as insensate as investing too much of our own money in an institution too big to fail.

Only rarely do we ask our Legislatures to make mitigation effective. Instead, over and over again we ask our Legislatures to make failure impossible. When you embark on making failure impossible, and that includes delivering on statements like "Never again," you are forced into cost-benefit analyses where at least one of the variables is infinite. One is not anti-government to say that doing a good job at preventing terrorism is better than doing a perfect job.

Undersecretary of Commerce Mark Foulon:

It has become clear that Internet access in itself is a vulnerability that we cannot mitigate. We have tried incremental steps and they have proven insufficient.

Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith:

Obama asked: "What's the endgame?" and did not receive a convincing answer.

treasure the sprawling periods of incomprehension
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:22 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2013

Maia Szalavitz:

It turns out that exerting self-control can make you happier not only in the long run, but also in the moment. Those who showed the greatest self-control reported more good moods and fewer bad ones. But this didn't appear to linked to being more able to resist temptations -- it was because they exposed themselves to fewer situations that might evoke craving in the first place. They were, in essence, setting themselves up to be happy.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

When you have your own money, your own wheels, and the full ownership of your legs, your need for such imagination, or maybe your opportunity to exercise it, is reduced. The older I get, the more I treasure the sprawling periods of incomprehension, the not knowing, the lands beyond Google, the places in which you must be immersed to comprehend.

Marina Petrova:

At the age of eight ... the certainty of my future non-being was deeply unsettling.

Richard Friedman:

When, as an adult, you look back at your childhood experiences, they appear to unfold in slow motion probably because the sheer number of them gives you the impression that they must have taken forever to acquire. So when you recall the summer vacation when you first learned to swim or row a boat, it feels endless.

But this is merely an illusion, the way adults understand the past when they look through the telescope of lost time. This, though, is not an illusion: almost all of us faced far steeper learning curves when we were young. Most adults do not explore and learn about the world the way they did when they were young; adult life lacks the constant discovery and endless novelty of childhood.

maybe it's a metaphor
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:21 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2013

Shirley Wang:

One way of interpreting the findings is that the medicine proves effective on immediate classroom behaviors like sitting still and interrupting the teacher less, but it doesn't help with other factors important to successful completion of homework or test-taking, like family encouragement.

The Economist:

South Korean parents will not even embark on having a child until they are sure they have the resources to groom it for success. As a result, South Korea suffers from a shortage of happy mediocrities, countercultural rebels, slackers, dropouts and eccentrics. These people, in effect, remain unborn.

Tabitha Speelman:

Middle-class Chinese parents choosing to feed their child foreign milk powder might spend anywhere from 25-40% of their monthly salary.


Human breast milk has become a new luxury for China's rich, with some firms offering wet-nurse services … Xinxinyu, a domestic staff agency in the booming city of Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, provided wet nurses for newborns, the sick and other adults who pay high prices for the milk's fine nutrition. Adult [clients] can drink it directly through breastfeeding, or they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel embarrassed. Wet nurses serving adults are paid about 16,000 yuan (US$2,610) a month -- more than four times the Chinese average -- and those who are "healthy and good looking" can earn even more.


Mistresses have become the ultimate symbol of corruption in China.

nothing competes with fireworks
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:20 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2013

Ken Auletta:

When the mercurial Robert Maxwell closed the Daily News, Alan Rusbridger welcomed an offer from the Guardian to return to London as a feature writer. In 1992, the editor, Peter Preston, offered him the editorship of a weekend supplement. ... When Kurt Cobain died, the section ran an extensive account of his life and death. "All the graybeards came and said, 'Why are we doing this?' " he recalls. "I said, 'Our daughters are crying. That's why we're doing this.' "

Adam Grant:

Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters' hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.

Paul Ford:

One day I went to pick up my kids from day care and loaded them into their giant stroller, the size of a French car. Suddenly I looked at my daughter and was convinced that she was some other child. What if the day care had switched her with a similar-looking girl? What if I'd had some kind of stroke that kept me from recognizing my daughter? I couldn't sort it out, even as I walked home with full knowledge that I was both tired and crazy. She was too young to talk, so I couldn't ask her.

Benjamin J. Ames:

In the end, nothing competes with fireworks.

always be doing
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:20 pm EDT, Oct 28, 2013

Tyrone Cohen:

In politics, as in management more generally, if you always look good you are doing something badly wrong.

Paul Ford:

Being a mother means that you are always doing something that someone thinks is horrible. It's like wearing sweatpants to a wake.

Donald Rumsfeld:

If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.

Mark Oppenheimer:

When I am feeling bad for not being more celebrated, my children are a comfort; thinking of more celebrated writers or editors with fewer children is also a comfort. I would call it Schadenfreude, but can one properly take pleasure in others' misfortune if the unfortunate ones don't know that they are unfortunate? If it doesn't bother them, can their lack of fecundity please me?

David Foster Wallace:

If you've never wept and want to, have a child.

the charade that it is
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:28 pm EDT, Oct 27, 2013

Glenn Greenwald:

I didn't want to be representing rich people. I wanted to be suing them.

Robert Whitaker:

We are always looking for easy money, but we are perhaps even more eager for a good emotion.

Amanda Hess:

It is time for us to recognize the hug for the charade that it is.

Maddie Biron, 16:

I post for the likes. ... [But] I don't mind not being famous. I wouldn't want to give up my sense of privacy.

Manohla Dargis:

Every so often, someone says something that puts the stakes and intensifying throb of fear into unambiguous perspective.

Dan Geer:

As society becomes more technologic, even the mundane comes to depend on distant digital perfection. Our food pipeline contains less than a week's supply, just to take one example, and that pipeline depends on digital services for everything from GPS driven tractors to robot vegetable sorting machinery to coast-to-coast logistics to RFID-tagged livestock. Is all the technologic dependency and the data that fuels it making us more resilient or more fragile?


Each silvery ship floating through the air represented up to 33 million potential sausage casings, sacrificed to the Kaiser's nationalist cause. And thus the dawn of aerial bombardment -- and, with it, the contemporary model of total war -- was dependent on a sausage-free civilian diet, in one of the more unusual examples of the militarisation of food.

yours is the the last generation
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:50 am EDT, Oct 24, 2013

David Pogue:

13 years is a long time to stay in one place; we all thrive on new experiences.


Life is too short to spend 2300 hours a year working on someone else's idea of what the right problems are.

Dan Geer:

The price of freedom is the probability of crime.

Christopher Glazek:

Crime has not fallen in the United States -- it's been shifted.

The Justice Department now seems to be saying that prison rape accounted for the majority of all rapes committed in the US in 2008, likely making the United States the first country in the history of the world to count more rapes for men than for women.

Popular resentment against an authoritarian state shouldn't be denied or pooh-poohed -- it should be seized and marshaled toward progressive ends.

Tony Judt:

The question is not going to be, Will there be an activist state? The question is going to be, What kind of an activist state?

Christopher Glazek:

More African Americans are in prison today than were enslaved in the 1850s.

Dan Geer:

As technology progresses, your choice will not be between Big Brother or no Big Brother, rather it is already between one Big Brother and lots of Little Brothers. Think carefully, yours is the last generation that will have a choice.


It's important to understand that it isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

signal strength
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:50 am EDT, Oct 24, 2013

Laura Pappano:

Most homes in Ulan Bator have Internet connections, and almost everyone, including nomads, has at least one cellphone.

Even on the steppe, with only sheep in sight, you can get a signal.

Lesley M. M. Blume:

Disconnecting is a luxury that we all need.

Libby Purves:

There is a thrill in switching off the mobile, taking the bus to somewhere without CCTV and paying cash for your tea. You and your innocence can spend an afternoon alone together, unseen by officialdom.

An FBI spokesperson, who asked not to be named:

No one is beyond the reach of the FBI. We will find you.

Topic: Miscellaneous 7:32 am EDT, Oct 23, 2013

Trip Gabriel:

J. Preston Van Winkle, the fourth generation in the business, said that he and his father, Julian Van Winkle III, are raising production because of the demand, but that it takes time. "You can't make 20-year bourbon in less than 20 years," he said.

Connie Herring:

You can't pay it forward if you're broke.

Maciej Ceglowski:

Walden is a layered work. You can't just go in and strip-mine it for a bunch of Tim Ferriss-style life hacks ...

Douglas R. Hofstadter, on the life-extension work of Ray Kurzweil:

A very bizarre mixture of ideas that are solid and good with ideas that are crazy. It's as if you took a lot of very good food and some dog excrement and blended it all up so that you can't possibly figure out what's good or bad.

Freddie deBoer:

Sometimes you have to eat shit in your life, so you eat it. It's just a question of what you can accept and what you can't.

The Electoral Victor:

You have elected yourselves, you see, and you can't get a more fair dinkum democratic outcome than that.

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