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

a virtual reality predicated on the plenitude of absence
Topic: Miscellaneous 6:53 am EST, Nov  5, 2013

Tom Bissell:

When I worked my way through the earlier Grand Theft Autos, I marveled at the freedom they allowed and the astonishing vastidity of their worlds. When I played GTA V, I mostly wondered how the traffic flowed so convincingly. The more technically mindful of video games I've become, the more conscious I am of their innumerable moving parts, the more miraculous and impressive they seem -- and the more impossible it feels to vanish inside one.

J. Hoberman:

To watch Gravity on the huge IMAX screen to appreciate the power of illusion -- what André Bazin described as "total cinema." The movie is a virtual reality predicated on the plenitude of absence, the being of nothingness. In an act of technological prestidigitation, Alfonso Cuarón has created a sense of unlimited space where the mind knows that none actually exists.

Michiru Hoshino:

Oh! I feel it. I feel the cosmos!

Matthew Battles:

The network that was supposed to abolish space ended up moving to abolish time instead. Although we once dreamt of cyberspace as a frictionless grid, the network we ended up with needs the x, y, z of realspace. It reminds us of it constantly; it wants to reside in the spaces we inhabit, rather than the other way round. Space is the network's chief uncanny affordance, lending it a kind of cultural potential energy, a latency of meaning.

We find that everywhere we look, the internet makes light of time. Time is the internet's too-cheap-to-meter cultural resource, and it's only just begun burning through it, generating a storm of atemporal media traces that pile up before us as our wings beat furiously.

Ali Dhux:

A man tries hard to help you find your lost camels.
He works more tirelessly than even you,
But in truth he does not want you to find them, ever.

Topic: Miscellaneous 7:14 am EST, Nov  4, 2013

Dan Geer:

Politicians know that the surest way to win an argument is, as they say, to "frame the question", by which they mean painting a picture that their opposition has to work to overcome. Every time there is a televised debate where some self-important interlocutor asks a question that is impossible to answer succinctly, and then gives the candidate sixty seconds of airtime, painting into a corner by way of selective disclosure is what is happening.


I like the judicial process -- it enables a discussion of issues in a forum where there isn't as much room for bullshit as there is in the legislature.

Yaniv Bernstein:

It's amazing the amount of difference a cultural intolerance to bullshit can make.

Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore:

Few U.S. officials think of their ability to act hypocritically as a key strategic resource. Indeed, one of the reasons American hypocrisy is so effective is that it stems from sincerity: most U.S. politicians do not recognize just how two-faced their country is.

Turkeys Voting for Christmas:

In contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

John Horgan on the theories of Robert Trivers:

The more we believe our own lies, the more sincerely, and hence effectively, we can lie to others.

the indispensible machine
Topic: Miscellaneous 5:58 pm EDT, Nov  1, 2013

Martha Stewart:

I believe a sewing machine is as indispensable today as a personal computer or smartphone.

On the time of Jane Austen:

The sheer amount of sewing done by gentlewomen in those days sometimes takes us moderns aback, but it would probably generally be a mistake to view it either as merely constant joyless toiling, or as young ladies turning out highly embroidered ornamental knicknacks to show off their elegant but meaningless accomplishments. Sewing was something to do (during the long hours at home) that often had great practical utility, and that wasn't greatly mentally taxing, and could be done sitting down while engaging in light conversation, or listening to a novel being read.

Vannevar Bush:

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

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.

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