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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

How Fleeting It Can Be
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:27 am EDT, Aug  3, 2012

Jason Fried:

Pushing back means you already think you know. Asking questions means you want to know. Ask more questions.

Beth Gardner:

Sometimes, when forming our opinions, we grasp at whatever information presents itself, no matter how irrelevant.

Joe Nocera:

Repetition is all-important to spreading a Big Lie.

Nick Bilton:

Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs for the F.A.A., said that the agency has decided to take a "fresh look" at the use of personal electronics on planes.

It is in everyone's interest that we move from unscientific fears to real scientific testing.

Charles Gross:

Science is driven by two powerful motivations -- to discover the "truth," while acknowledging how fleeting it can be, and to achieve recognition through publication in prominent journals, through grant support to continue and expand research, and through promotion, prizes and memberships in prestigious scientific societies. The search for scientific truth may be seriously derailed by the desire for recognition, which may result in scientific misconduct.

Steve Moore:

Frankly, the professional experience I have had with TSA has frightened me. Once, I was bypassing screening (on official FBI business) with my .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol, and a TSA officer noticed the clip of my pocket knife. "You can't bring a knife on board," he said. I looked at him incredulously and asked, "The semi-automatic pistol is okay, but you don't trust me with a knife?" His response was equal parts predictable and frightening, "But knives are not allowed on the planes."

An unnamed officer:

In the end, it was just easier to do nothing than to, you know, rock the boat.


Happenstance Cogs in a Clockwork Universe
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:27 am EDT, Aug  3, 2012

Rosecrans Baldwin:

Most members of post-industrial societies perceive themselves as happenstance cogs in a clockwork universe, and consequently, exhibit a profound and increasingly dangerous alienation. The dissociation of self is so fundamental that bioregions are sub-divided into tract housing, resources into quarterly earnings, and people into one-percenters and the rest.

William J. H. Andrewes:

The schemes that divided the day into 24 equal parts varied according to the start of the count: Italian hours began at sunset, Babylonian hours at sunrise, astronomical hours at midday and "great clock" hours (used for some large public clocks in Germany) at midnight. Eventually these and competing systems were superseded by "small clock," or French, hours, which split the day, as we currently do, into two 12-hour periods commencing at midnight.

Hersfold:

Wikipedia would be a shambles without bots.

Ethan Zuckerman:

As we enter an age of increased global connection, we are also entering an age of increasing participation. The billions of people worldwide who access the Internet via computers and mobile phones have access to information far beyond their borders, and the opportunity to contribute their own insights and opinions. It should be no surprise that we are experiencing a concomitant rise in mystery that parallels the increases in connection.

The challenge for anyone who wants to decipher the mysteries of a connected age is to understand how the Internet does, and does not, connect us. Only then can we find ways to make online connection more common and more powerful.

Freeman Dyson:

The truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won't come to pass.


As Much Salt As You Like
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:34 am EDT, Aug  2, 2012

Greg Afinogenov:

The premise of 19th-century liberal democracy, which envisioned national communities as largely self-enclosed and politics as localized debates on the common good, becomes less tenable with each passing year.

Russian democracy became a caricature of the caricature once drawn by Soviet propagandists: it was a pseudo-politics serving only to conceal the controlling hand of moneyed interests. Unlike in Western democracies, however, in Russia everyone was aware of the deception.

By 2003, four-fifths of Russians agreed with the statement, "Democratic procedures are pure show business." In an American context, these words would sound like an angry call for reform. In Putin's Russia, they were a pledge of allegiance.

Julian Schnabel:

Being in the water alone, surfing, sharpens a particular kind of concentration, an ability to agree with the ocean, to react with a force that is larger than you are.

Nizar Qabbani:

Dive into the sea, or stay away.

On sailing:

The stars, and even the moon, were so perfectly reflected that you couldn't find the horizon, so it seemed as if our boat was a satellite in space, surrounded above, below and on all sides by stars.

Jhumpa Lahiri:

The best sentences orient us, like stars in the sky, like landmarks on a trail.

Lal Ded, translated by Ranjit Hoskote:

You can stir as much salt as you like in water,
It won't become the sea.


Where To Draw The Line
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:34 am EDT, Aug  2, 2012

Ben McGrath:

The first time Sheila McClear had lunch with Nick Denton, she returned to the office afterward and threw up. She attributed this to food poisoning, but it happened again the second time they had lunch.

Jonathan Blaustein:

Just because we can put something in our mouths, does that make it food? At what point do we decide that something isn't food?

Frank Rich:

More than 60 percent of Twitter users abandon it after a single month.

Ronald Bailey:

Half the crime in Seattle occurs on 4.5 percent of that city's streets; just over 3 percent of street addresses and intersections generated half the crimes in Minneapolis; and 8 percent of street blocks accounted for 66 percent of robberies in Boston.

Vanda Felbab-Brown:

To get all its extra supplies out of Afghanistan, NATO needs to send one container over the Afghan border every seven minutes from now until 2015.

Elizabeth Dickinson:

Roughly 50,000 lives have been lost since Mexico's experiment with a Colombian-style militarized drug war began in 2006. The Citizen's Council for Public Security in Mexico recently estimated the kidnapping rate at three times that of Colombia's darkest days. By November 2011, 80 percent of the population ... said they believed security to be worse than just a year ago. A mere 14 percent believed that the government could beat the drug gangs.

Brad Stone:

Google+ has attracted 100 million members, who spent an average of 3.3 minutes on the service in January, according to ComScore (SCOR). Facebook's 850 million users spend an average of 7.5 hours a month on that site.

Lizette Alvarez:

The I.R.S. receives 100 million tax returns a year, most filed within a short period of time and a vast majority legitimate.

From 2008 to 2011, the number of returns filed by identity thieves and stopped by the I.R.S. increased significantly, officials said. Last year, it was at least 1.3 million ...

This year, with only 30 percent of the filings reviewed so far, the number is already at 2.6 million.

Peter Fader:

Among financial academics, chartists tend to be regarded as quacks. But a lot of the Big Data people are exactly like them. They say, "We are just going to stare at the data and look for patterns, and then act on them when we find them." In short, there is very little real science in what we call "data science," and that's a big problem.

Actuaries can say with great confidence what percent of people with your characteristics will live to be 80. But no actuary would ever try to predict when you are going to die. They know exactly where to draw the line.


On The Artificial Scarcity of Super Hyper Special Happy Moments
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:23 am EDT, Jul 25, 2012

Douglas Rushkoff:

Corporatism, with its promotion of competition between individuals over scarce resources and money, laid the ground for individualism and for a heightened concept of the self.

Alina Tugend:

How do we go back to the idea that ordinary can be extraordinary? How do we teach our children -- and remind ourselves -- that life doesn't have to be all about public recognition and prizes, but can be more about our relationships and special moments?

Manohla Dargis:

I like some comic-book movies very much, dislike others. But as a film lover I am frustrated by how the current system of flooding theaters with the same handful of titles limits my choices. (According to boxofficemojo.com "The Avengers" opened on 4,349 screens in the United States and Canada, close to 1 in 10.) The success of these movies also shores up a false market rationale that's used to justify blockbusters in general: that is, these movies make money, therefore people like them; people like them, therefore these movies are made.

David Cronenberg:

I really wanted ten million dollars to make Spider and we could only raise eight. And at that point it was, okay, do we make this movie or not? You know, if we make it for eight then it means we all literally have to not get paid. And I include there, Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson, and the Producer and the Writer and the Director -- me, but we all loved the project so much and we were already so far engaged in it, that we all agreed to do that. So we literally all of us, and Patrick McGrath the writer of the novel, we all literally didn't get paid and we made the movie for eight million, but we really needed ten. So that's an unusual moment, and just in terms of financial survival you can't do that very often, because you're spending two years of your life making a movie and you're making zero money during those two years. But that was sort of a happy case because we managed to survive it.

Cormac McCarthy:

Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing.

Charles Simic:

The day I saw Bicycle Thieves I had become an aesthete without realizing it, more concerned with how a particular film was made, than with whatever twists its plot had. All of a sudden, the way the camera moved, a scene was cut and a certain image was framed, were ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]


Let's Just Say We Have An Understanding
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:08 am EDT, Jul 23, 2012

Lawrence Lessig:

196 Americans have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.

Clive Stafford Smith:

Capital punishment means those without the capital get the punishment.

William Langewiesche:

The Camorra is not an organization like the Mafia that can be separated from society, disciplined in court, or even quite defined. It is an amorphous grouping in Naples and its hinterlands of more than 100 autonomous clans and perhaps 10,000 immediate associates, along with a much larger population of dependents, clients, and friends. It is an understanding, a way of justice, a means of creating wealth and spreading it around. It has been a part of life in Naples for centuries -- far longer than the fragile construct called Italy has even existed. At its strongest it has grown in recent years into a complete parallel world and, in many people's minds, an alternative to the Italian government, whatever that term may mean. Neapolitans call it "the system" with resignation and pride. The Camorra offers them work, lends them money, protects them from the government, and even suppresses street crime. The problem is that periodically the Camorra also tries to tear itself apart, and when that happens, ordinary Neapolitans need to duck.

Michael Sacasas:

When we ask questions about technology we often ask about matters such as safety and efficiency or costs and benefits. We don't often ask, "What sort of person will the use of this or that technology make of me?" Or, more to the present point, "What sort of citizen will the use of this or that technology make of me?"

We speak of technological innovation as if it alone could cure our economic and political ills. We forget that our economic and political culture is finally composed of individuals whose actions are driven by character, and character is in large measure the product of habitual patterns of action. It would be one of history's great ironies if under the cover of the ideology of technology, we allowed our use of technology to erode the habits of the heart essential to the health of our society.

Samantha Power:

There are great benefits to connectedness, but we haven't wrapped our minds around the costs.


The Complacency That Breeds Ingenious Chimeras
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:57 am EDT, Jul 23, 2012

Roger Highfield:

The reality is that, despite fears that our children are "pumped full of chemicals", everything is made of chemicals.

Kit Parker, a biophysicist at Harvard University:

Morphologically, we've built a jellyfish. Functionally, we've built a jellyfish. Genetically, this thing is a rat.

Zoe Williams:

How do you persuade people to hate a body part? You have to horse trade with their existing hatred of a different body part. Capitalism really is ingenious.

Tony Dokoupil:

Altogether the digital shifts of the last five years call to mind a horse that has sprinted out from underneath its rider, dragging the person who once held the reins. No one is arguing for some kind of Amish future. But the research is now making it clear that the Internet is not "just" another delivery system. It is creating a whole new mental environment, a digital state of nature where the human mind becomes a spinning instrument panel, and few people will survive unscathed.

All of us, since the relationship with the Internet began, have tended to accept it as is, without much conscious thought about how we want it to be or what we want to avoid. Those days of complacency should end. The Internet is still ours to shape. Our minds are in the balance.

Ashutosh (Ash) Jogalekar:

Much of the modern world as we know it in the form of metals, plastics, fibers, drugs, detergents, pesticides, fuels, medical implants, food and drink is the direct result of chemistry. Pondering just one of chemistry's myriad creations like jet fuel or PVC or aspirin should convince us of its all-pervasive role in human civilization. It would not be a stretch to say that chemistry's influence on our modern way of life and the rise and fall of nations is equal to that of the development of the calculus.

David Golumbia:

For at least one hundred years and probably much longer, modern societies have been built on the assumption that more rationality and more techne (and more capital) are precisely the solutions to the extremely serious problems that beset our world and our human societies. Yet the evidence that this is not the right solution can be found everywhere.

Russell Jacoby:

As the world becomes more threatening, many people seek simple answers, and many Americans conclude that an elite -- from which they are excluded -- must be the source of the ills. They turn on intellectuals, professors, and presumably the specialized knowledge those experts trade in. Instead of resisting that tendency, conservative intellectuals such as Gelernter encourage it. In their flight from elitism, they end up in a populist swamp peopled by autodidacts and fundamentalists. They become cheerleaders for a world without intellectuals, hastening a future in which they themselves will be irrelevant.


Led By The Nose On A Whirlwind Tour Through The Palace Of Notoriety
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:39 am EDT, Jul 12, 2012

Michael Nielsen:

When something doesn't quite match your expectations of how you think the world actually is, people will often build on that, and they will realize that what seems like a minor discrepancy can actually turn into a really, really big thing.

Roger Kimball:

It is worth pausing to consider how much of our cultural life -- even in its most august precincts -- is caught up in the voracious logic of celebrity. It is a logic that builds obsolescence into the banner of achievement and requires that seriousness abdicate before the palace of notoriety and its sound-bite culture.

Simon Kuper:

Anyone who still believes that politics will uplift humanity is considered a crank. Yet the idea of progress hasn't vanished. It has simply been privatised. They don't think the next human generation will be better off, but they are making darned sure their own children will be.

William Saletan:

Romney will always be what he needs to be. Count on it.

Paul Krugman:

Won't Mr. Romney pay a price for running a campaign based entirely on falsehoods? He obviously thinks not, and I'm afraid he may be right.

Joe Nocera:

They just want theirs. That is the culture they have created.

George Packer:

It's easy for most Americans to go days without giving the war a thought.

The military, on its end, seems to want things this way.

What I expect in the next few years is the willful amnesia that always comes with the end of unsuccessful wars.

Charles Simic:

The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullshit.

An educated, well-informed population, the kind that a functioning democracy requires, would be difficult to lie to, and could not be led by the nose by the various vested interests running amok in this country. Most of our politicians and their political advisers and lobbyists would find themselves unemployed, and so would the gasbags who pass themselves off as our opinion makers. Luckily for them, nothing so catastrophic, even though perfectly well-deserved and widely-welcome, has a remote chance of occurring any time soon. For starters, there's more money to be made from the ignorant than the enlightened, and deceiving Americans is one of the few growing home industries we still have in this country. A truly educated populace would be bad, both for politicians and for business.


Captain America ran the half marathon
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:39 am EDT, Jul 12, 2012

David Ulin:

Is cosmology just a parlor game, in which our only choice is to take a leap of faith?

Jonathan Moreno, a professor of bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania:

Scientists often fail to foresee where their research is headed.

Greg Sandoval:

Even visionaries can misread their customers when they are blinded by their past success.

David Simon:

Nobody knows what anyone's building until it's built.

Dexter Filkins:

Largely prohibited from venturing outside their compounds, many American officials exhibit little knowledge of events beyond the barricades. They often appear to occupy themselves with irrelevant activities such as filling out paperwork and writing cables to their superiors in the United States. Some of them send tweets -- in English, in a largely illiterate country, with limited Internet usage. "Captain America ran the half marathon," a recent Embassy tweet said, referring to a sporting event that took place within the Embassy's protected area. In the early years of the war, diplomats were encouraged to leave their compounds and meet ordinary Afghans. In recent years, personal safety has come to overshadow all other concerns.

It may be that American officers, after eleven years of doing almost everything themselves, have created such a sense of dependency in the Afghan government and military that they must now see if their charges will stand on their own. And maybe they will. But the American strategy appears to be an enormous gamble, propelled by a sense of political and economic fatigue.

Jessica Goodell:

There was an irony of sorts shaping the dynamic between our yellow ribbon decal supporters and us. They were uninformed but good people, the kind whose respect we would welcome -- if it were based upon something true. It was when we were around them that we had to hide the actual truth most consciously.

Chris Hedges:

When Geoff Millard told his mother he wanted to be a Marine, she pleaded with him to consider the National Guard. He agreed to meet with the Guard recruiter, whose pitch was effective and simple: "If you come here, you get to blow shit up."

"I was just like, oh, I get to blow up stuff! I signed up right then and there on the spot. But the interesting thing he didn't tell me was that the 'shit' that he referred to would be kids."

War is about barbarity, perversion, and pain. Human decency and tenderness are crushed, and people become objects to use or kill. The noise, the stench, the fear, the scenes of eviscerated bodies and bloated corpses, the cries of the wounded all combine to spin those in combat into another universe. In this moral void, naively blessed by secular and religious institutions at home, the hypocrisy of our social conventions, our strict adherence to moral precepts, becomes stark. War, for all its horror, has the power to strip away the trivial and the banal, the empty chatter and foolish obsessions that fill our days. It might let us see, although the cost is tremendous.


The Tyranny Of Time
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:06 am EDT, Jul 11, 2012

A thought:

Once upon a time, only a wealthy man could afford to carry time in his pocket.

Later, "clocking in" became a symbol of the working class.

Now, synchrony is out of favor.

And Yet. And Yet.

Billy Hoffman:

Your Time is the most valuable thing that you have. There is nothing more important than how you spend your time.

Colin McSwiggen:

If you want to sit healthily, you'll have to take matters into your own hands; the best habit to develop is not to stay seated for more than ten minutes at a time.

Dexter Filkins:

After eleven years, nearly two thousand Americans killed, sixteen thousand Americans wounded, nearly four hundred billion dollars spent, and more than twelve thousand Afghan civilians dead since 2007, the war in Afghanistan has come to this: the United States is leaving, mission not accomplished. Objectives once deemed indispensable, such as nation-building and counterinsurgency, have been abandoned or downgraded, either because they haven't worked or because there's no longer enough time to achieve them.

Nir Rosen:

"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."

Penelope Trunk:

Stop talking about time like you need to save it. You just need to use it better.

Sherry Turkle:

We don't want to intrude on each other, so instead we constantly intrude on each other, but not in 'real time.'

Matt Richtel:

As access to devices has spread, children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

This growing time-wasting gap, policy makers and researchers say, is more a reflection of the ability of parents to monitor and limit how children use technology than of access to it.

Steven Kurutz:

What emerges over time, for those who live alone, is an at-home self that is markedly different -- in ways big and small -- from the self they present to the world. We all have private selves, of course, but people who live alone spend a good deal more time exploring them.


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