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Current Topic: Miscellaneous

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.

your choice and responsibility
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:20 am EDT, Oct 23, 2013

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.

Jean-Luc Godard:

It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.

Vannevar Bush:

The process of tying two items together is the important thing.

Dan Geer:

This is perhaps our last fundamental tradeoff before the Singularity occurs: Do we, as a society, want the comfort and convenience of increasingly technologic, invisible digital integration enough to pay for those benefits with the liberties that must be given up to be protected from the downsides of that integration?

It is your choice and responsibility whether to demand protections and conveniences and services that can only be done with pervasive data. It is your choice and responsibility whether to fear only fear itself or to fear the absence of fear. It is your choice and responsibility to be part of the problem or part of the solution.


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

the inward heart of things
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:08 am EDT, Oct 21, 2013

Sara Wheeler:

Fearful of losing my bearings, I stopped to fish this map from my pack and spread it on the ice. Created by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in the 1980s, it represents part of the Antarctic continent on a 1:250,000 scale. I traced my route by topographical landmarks, including an especially pointy mountain which the glaciologists had called the Doesn't Matterhorn. My finger came to a zigzag drawn with a ruler marked "Limit of compilation". Beyond that, the sheet was blank. I had reached the end of the map.

That was where I wanted to be. Uncharted territory.

I like this map for its lack of human spoilage -- no cities or highways. In London, hunched in my office behind a rain-spattered window, I often unfurl it and trace the glaciers and valleys I once knew so well. But in my dreams, I always stand at the Limit of compilation.

Dexter Filkins:

The cooperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. "Here's our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here's the logic." Stunned, Crocker asked, "Can I take notes?" The negotiator replied, "You can keep the map." The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan's new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, "Haji Qassem is very pleased with our cooperation."

Reuben Fischer-Baum:

Baby naming generally follows a consistent cycle: A name springs up in some region of the U.S. -- "Ashley" in the South, "Emily" in the Northeast -- sweeps over the country, and falls out of favor nearly as quickly. The big exception to these baby booms and busts is "Jennifer", which absolutely dominates America for a decade-and-a-half. If you're named Jennifer and you were born between 1970 and 1984, don't worry! I'm sure you have a totally cool, unique middle name.

Notably, the recession seems to have put a temporary damper on creative baby naming. In 2007, eight different baby names made the map -- including less-traditional names like Addison, Ava, and Madison -- and all carried at least two states. By 2012 the map has just five names, and 47 states went with either "Sophia" or "Emma." A yearning for simpler times?

Matt Weiland:

Names on the Land reflects a glorious union of two primal forces in the American mind. On one hand, Americanism: the inclination toward the large-scale and industrial, toward manifest destiny and the farthest shore, toward what a French critic a century ago called the American "worship of size, mass, quantity and numbers." On the other, Americana: the craving for the local and the lo-fi, for the inward heart of things, for the handcrafted and the homemade.

unthinking boosterism and naive idealism
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:08 am EDT, Oct 21, 2013

Lee Berger:

Any time a scientist says 'we've got this figured out' they are probably wrong.


Modern scientists are doing too much trusting and not enough verifying -- to the detriment of the whole of science, and of humanity.

Lee Billings:

Very few [scientists] are really lauded and richly rewarded for their work in comparison to even C-list Hollywood celebrities. For instance, look at the case of Jim Kasting, a quiet, thoughtful Penn State geoscientist ... [who] basically figured out how the cycling of carbon between a planet’s atmosphere, ocean, and crust stabilizes the climate over geological timescales. In other words, he helped show how and why Earth has managed for billions of years to be a reasonably nice place to live. ... Kasting has sketched out some canonical limits for life as we know it around stars, and he has also made a scientifically robust forecast for the end of the world.

Here is a man working on topics that have profound, fundamental importance for every single living being on Earth and yet he toils away in obscurity in a tiny little office. Essentially no one outside of the field knows who he is, and even within the field he has limited power; he certainly isn’t able to pull any political or financial strings to help get his dreamed-for telescopes built. His story is by no means unique; in fact, it’s the norm for great scientists.

I think these sorts of jarring juxtapositions are important to acknowledge. They help reveal the unthinking boosterism and naive idealism that all too often passes as popular science communication today.

hold fast, fail young
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:17 am EDT, Oct 15, 2013

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?

Robin Hanson:

The pundit[s]/wonk[s] ... seemed to hold fast to a simple moral principle: when a future change is framed as a problem which we might hope our political system to solve, then the only acceptable reason to talk about the consequences of failing to solve that problem is to scare folks into trying harder to solve it. If you instead assume that politics will fail to solve the problem, and analyze the consequences of that in more detail, not to scare people but to work out how to live in that scenario, you are seen as expressing disloyalty to the system and hostility toward those who will suffer from that failure.

Ira Glass:

If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get super-lucky.


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

who can rouse my thoughts?
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:21 pm EDT, Oct 14, 2013

Han San, 9th century:

There are roads, but they do not lead to the world;
Since I am mindless, who can rouse my thoughts?
On a bed of stones I sit, alone in the night,
While the moon climbs up Cold Mountain.

Li Po:

We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

Samantha Power:

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

an unprecedented treasure trove of data about virtually every wrinkle
Topic: Miscellaneous 11:21 pm EDT, Oct 14, 2013

Cathy O'Neil:

Data science expertise has been commodified, and it's a race to the bottom. Who will solve my business-critical data problem on a short-term consulting basis for less than $5000? Less than $4000?

Paul Ford:

The people who knew the least were generally the most willing to offer counsel.

Straw Man:

Money for me, databases for you.

Howard Beck:

The NBA ... on Thursday announced plans to install sophisticated tracking cameras, known as the SportVu system, in every arena for the coming season, creating an unprecedented treasure trove of data about virtually every wrinkle of the game.

SportVu, developed by Stats LLC, records data points for all 10 players, the three referees and the ball, every 30th of a second, measuring speed, distance, player separation and ball possession. Every step, every dribble, every pass, every shot, every rebound -- really, every movement -- will be recorded, coded and categorized.

Ben Bernanke:

If your uniform isn't dirty, you haven't been in the game.

Stuart Armstrong:

Mass surveillance would combat all kinds of abuses that currently go unreported because the abuser has power over the abused. You see this dynamic in a variety of scenarios, from the dramatic (child abuse) to the more mundane (line managers insisting on illegal, unpaid overtime). Even if the victim is too scared to report the crime, the simple fact that the recordings existed would go a long way towards equalising existing power differentials. There would be the constant risk of some auditor or analyst stumbling on the recording, and once the abused was out of the abuser's control (grown up, in another job) they could retaliate and complain, proof in hand. The possibility of deferred vengeance would make abuse much less likely to occur in the first place.

Eric Schmidt:

If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

the world is full of things that remain undiscovered
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:07 am EDT, Oct 11, 2013

Stephen Marche:

No drug dealer ever worries about demand. Ever. The hunger for illegal drugs in America is assumed to be limitless. Why? One answer is that drugs feed a human despair that is equally limitless. And there is plenty of despair, no doubt. But the question becomes more complicated when you consider how many people are drugging themselves legally.

Harry Mount:

Like Hamlet, the rich yearn for infinite space.

In the end, even infinite space isn't enough.

Nathan Heller:

The future of tech influence is not suburban, as it has been for half a century. It's the city.

Teju Cole:

The city is a sea that can swallow you at any time, a monster that can lash out without warning, a hell of variables and uncertainties. What the solution should be is not clear.

Andrew O'Hagan:

Maybe the small things have gone out of focus. The world is full of things that remain undiscovered until you find them for yourself.

Julia Margaret Cameron:

What is focus and who has the right to say what focus is the legitimate focus?

Pope Francis:

We must not focus on occupying the spaces where power is exercised, but rather on starting long-run historical processes. We must initiate processes rather than occupy spaces.

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