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Being "always on" is being always off, to something.

Return to Nothingness
Topic: Society 7:51 am EDT, Jun  1, 2010

Angus McCullough:

To compare Tetris to any other game is somehow wrong -- it is a masterful test of how our brains function while trying to balance instinctual and intellectual challenges in real time.

The major difference between Tetris and other games is the simplicity of its construction and complexity of play.

Most importantly, it is a game that does not have a goal or end.

There is no castle to storm or high score to achieve -- the only way to end your game is to lose.

Instead of building up, every time a line is completed it disappears.

John Bird and John Fortune:

They thought that if they had a bigger mortgage they could get a bigger house. They thought if they had a bigger house, they would be happy. It's pathetic. I've got four houses and I'm not happy.

Sarah Silverman:

You're very free if you don't love money.


The way to become a Confucian gentleman is through mastery of ritual, training your instinct to work with your mind.

Ben Bernanke:

When you are working, studying, or pursuing a hobby, do you sometimes become so engrossed in what you are doing that you totally lose track of time?

That feeling is called flow.

If you never have that feeling, you should find some new activities.


When one has grasped Virtue, then one can achieve fixity.

When one can achieve fixity, then one can respond to things.

To be capable both of fixity and of responding to things -- such a one is called the perfected person.


With practice, you can simply put the pieces where you desire, and be sure that they are filling in the right spaces.

In many ways, the ideal of Tetris is to continually return to this first frame, where the simplicity of the game is truly represented.

The fact that emptiness is the goal connects with Xunzi's saying about clearing away murkiness to be able to see.

Tetris, in its highest and purest form, is about learning how to fail. Even if you spend your whole life working at the game and playing at a high level, you will inevitably reach a moment of failure in every single game. This is, I think, the greatest lesson that the game can impart.

Return to Nothingness

The Difference
Topic: Society 7:51 am EDT, Jun  1, 2010

Molly Young:

The difference between successful and unsuccessful people is that the first kind gain momentum from boredom and the second kind don't.

Paul Buchheit:

Many people with jobs have a fantasy about all the amazing things they would do if they didn't need to work. In reality, if they had the drive and commitment to do actually do those things, they wouldn't let a job get in the way.

Sarah Silverman:

You're very free if you don't love money.

Martin Wolf:

If you want to accumulate enduring wealth, do not lend to grasshoppers.

Bruce Nussbaum:

It is not impossible to monetize that which is free. Apple did that with 99 cent songs on iTunes. But it is difficult.

Ian Bogost:

Mark Zuckerberg has taken up the reigns of involuntary public life's dark chariot from Josh Harris, but the fascism and exhibitionism remain the same. The scale has changed too: instead of a hundred residents, Zuckerberg rules over 400 million. Harris's tiny tragedy has become everyone's. The only difference is, most of us don't even notice.

Like the manure catcher on a draft horse, online services collect and disseminate the exhaust of our lives without us even noticing. Any idiot can live in public.

Steven Johnson:

There used to be a large crevasse separating the intimate space of private life and what's exposed by the klieg lights of fame. But in the Facebook age, that crevasse has broadened out into a valley between the realms of privacy and celebrity, and we are starting to camp out there and get the lay of the land. The fascinating and troublesome thing about the valley is that the rules of engagement there are not clearly defined, and it's likely that they will stay undefined.

It is going to take some time to learn how to live there.

Robert Scoble:

We want to present ourselves to other people the way we would like to have other people perceive us as.

Translation: I'd rather be seen as someone who eats salad at Pasta Moon than someone who eats a Big Mac at McDonalds.

This is the problem with likes and other explicit sharing systems. We lie and we lie our asses off.

Looking for moments of peace amid the hurly-burly of daily life
Topic: Health and Wellness 7:51 am EDT, Jun  1, 2010

Douglas Adams:

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious.

At first, Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation, he abandoned this theory in favor of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.

Alan Hall:

This is not daydreaming.

It's more purposeful. More productive.

It is the practice of stillness in the midst of the madding crowd.

W. H. Davies:

What is this life, if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare ...

David Foster Wallace:

Pay close attention to the most tedious thing you can find, and, in waves, a boredom like you've never known will wash over you and just about kill you. Ride these out, and it's like stepping from black and white into color. Like water after days in the desert. Instant bliss in every atom.

William Deresiewicz:

There's been much talk of late about the loss of privacy, but equally calamitous is its corollary, the loss of solitude.

Roger Cohen:

Being "always on" is being always off, to something.

Liz Danzico:

I need idle time in equal proportion to planned time; leaving time for the unplanned, and making sure there's enough time for a bit of nothing. It's this space that makes the planned more worthwhile.


Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is by talking to another person. One other person you can trust, one other person to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things -- to acknowledge things to yourself -- that you otherwise can't.

Mark Pilgrim:

In the end, how many 25-year friends can you hope to make in one lifetime? How many do you really need?

Looking for moments of peace amid the hurly-burly of daily life

Zero History
Topic: Arts 7:51 am EDT, Jun  1, 2010

William Gibson has a new book on the way.

When she sang for The Curfew, Hollis Henry's face was known worldwide. She still runs into people who remember the poster. Unfortunately, in the post-crash economy, cult memorabilia doesn't pay the rent, and right now she's a journalist in need of a job. The last person she wants to work for is Hubertus Bigend, twisted genius of global marketing; but there's no way to tell an entity like Bigend that you want nothing more to do with him. That simply brings you more firmly to his attention.

Milgrim is clean, drug-free for the first time in a decade. It took eight months in a clinic in Basel. Fifteen complete changes of his blood. Bigend paid for all that. Milgrim's idiomatic Russian is superb, and he notices things. Meanwhile no one notices Milgrim. That makes him worth every penny, though it cost Bigend more than his cartel-grade custom-armored truck.

The culture of the military has trickled down to the street -- Bigend knows that, and he'll find a way to take a cut. What surprises him though is that someone else seems to be on top of that situation in a way that Bigend associates only with himself. Bigend loves staring into the abyss of the global market; he's just not used to it staring back.

Stanley McChrystal:

You have to not lose confidence in what you are doing. You have to be able to go to the edge of the abyss without losing hope.

Bruce Sterling:

I say, follow your bliss. Follow your bliss into the abyss.

Dan Soltzberg:

It is ironic: people don't notice that noticing is important! Or that they're already doing it. It's much easier to recognize more "outbound" activities like brainstorming, testing, designing, refining. But noticing is just as important -- it's really where everything begins.

"Don't just do something, sit there."

It's a reminder to let yourself take things in as well as output them.

Zero History

The Mongoliad
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

Neal Stephenson has a new post-book.

The Mongoliad is a sort of serialized story, created by Neal Stephenson, and written by Neal, Greg Bear, Nicole Galland, Mark Teppo, and a number of other great authors. It will be told via custom apps on iPad, iPhone, Kindle, and Android, and will be something of an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling.

Neal Stephenson:

Hey, wait a minute, the hacker tourist says to himself, I thought AT&T was the enemy.

From The Diamond Age:

Hackworth was a forger, Dr. X was a honer. The distinction was at least as old as the digital computer. Forgers created a new technology and then forged on to the next project, having explored only the outlines of its potential. Honers got less respect because they appeared to sit still technologically, playing around with systems that were no longer start, hacking them for all they were worth, getting them to do things the forgers had never envisioned.

David Foster Wallace:

After the pioneers always come the crank turners, the little gray people who take the machines others have built and just turn the crank.

Neal Stephenson:

There's a gap emerging between the kind of thinking that requires long, uninterrupted, serious concentration on something and superficial surfing behaviour.

Winifred Gallagher:

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.

The Mongoliad

For The Win
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

Cory Doctorow has a new book.

In the virtual future, you must organize to survive.

Mala is a brilliant 15-year-old from rural India whose leadership skills in virtual combat have earned her the title of "General Robotwalla." In Shenzen, heart of China's industrial boom, Matthew is defying his former bosses to build his own successful gold-farming team. Leonard, who calls himself Wei-Dong, lives in Southern California, but spends his nights fighting virtual battles alongside his buddies in Asia, a world away. All of these young people, and more, will become entangled with the mysterious young woman called Big Sister Nor, who will use her experience, her knowledge of history, and her connections with real-world organizers to build them into a movement that can challenge the status quo.

The ruthless forces arrayed against them are willing to use any means to protect their power -- including blackmail, extortion, infiltration, violence, and even murder. To survive, Big Sister's people must out-think the system. This will lead them to devise a plan to crash the economy of every virtual world at once -- a Ponzi scheme combined with a brilliant hack that ends up being the biggest, funnest game of all.

John Seely Brown:

Gaming tends to be regarded as a harmless diversion at best, a vile corruptor of youth at worst. But the usual critiques fail to recognize its potential for experiential learning.

It's learning to be -- a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture -- as opposed to learning about.

For The Win

The Shallows
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

Nicholas Carr has a new book.

What are the consequences of new habits of mind that abandon sustained immersion and concentration for darting about, snagging bits of information? What is gained and what is lost?

Matthew B. Crawford, author of Shop Class As Soulcraft:

The core of education is this: developing the capacity to concentrate. The fruits of this capacity we call civilization. But all that is finished, perhaps. Welcome to the shallows, where the un-educating of homo sapiens begins. Nicholas Carr does a wonderful job synthesizing the recent cognitive research. In doing so, he gently refutes the ideologists of progress, and shows what is really at stake in the daily habits of our wired lives: the re-constitution of our minds. What emerges for the reader, inexorably, is the suspicion that we have well and truly screwed ourselves.

Winifred Gallagher:

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.

Neal Stephenson:

There's a gap emerging between the kind of thinking that requires long, uninterrupted, serious concentration on something and superficial surfing behaviour.

Russel Arben Fox:

In becoming jugglers of information we are actually making it -- neurologically, psychologically, structurally -- harder and harder for our own brains to do anything otherwise.

Samantha Power:

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

Dave Eggers:

It's just sort of like: 'Why does everything have to be on the screen?'

David Lynch:

Some things we forget. But many things we remember on the mental screen, which is the biggest screen of all.

Daniel Dennett:

We have a population explosion of ideas, but not enough brains to cover them.

The Shallows

Points of View: a tribute to Alan Kay
Topic: Technology 7:30 am EDT, May 24, 2010

A new book.

Points of View is a collection of previously-unpublished essays written to celebrate Alan Kay's 70th birthday. Twenty-nine luminaries from diverse disciplines contributed original material for this book.

Contributors include Ivan Sutherland, Leonard Kleinrock, John Sculley, Nicholas Negroponte, David Reed, Butler Lampson, Doug Lenat, Vint Cert, Mitchel Resnick, Bran Ferren, Bob Lucky, Gordon Bell, and Danny Hillis, and more.

Who is Alan Kay?

Alan Kay is one of the most influential computer scientists of the modern era. His contributions, among many others, include the concept of the personal computer.

From the archive, Alan Kay:

We can't learn to see until we realize we are blind.

I once asked Ivan [Sutherland], 'How is it possible for you to have invented computer graphics, done the first object oriented software system and the first real time constraint solver all by yourself in one year?" And he said "I didn't know it was hard."

At PARC we had a slogan: "Point of view is worth 80 IQ points."

If the children are being instructed in the pink plane, can we teach them to think in the blue plane and live in a pink-plane society?

Points of View: a tribute to Alan Kay

How many things they have!
Topic: Miscellaneous 7:29 am EDT, May 20, 2010

Denise Gershbein:

It's amazing how, when you're alone and things are quiet, hours can seem like days.

Rory Stewart:

Without music, time has a very different quality.

Blaise Pascal:

The sole cause of man's unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.

Rivka Galchen:

I prefer the taciturn company of my things. I love my things. I have a great capacity for love, I think.

Winifred Gallagher:

You can't be happy all the time, but you can pretty much focus all the time. That's about as good as it gets.

Norm Augustine:

Ninety percent of the time things will turn out worse than you expect. The other 10 percent of the time you had no right to expect so much.

Peter Drucker:

Futurists always measure their batting average by counting how many things they have predicted that have come true. They never count how many important things come true that they did not predict.

Joe Nocera:

They just want theirs.

Michael Osinski:

Oyster farmers eat lots of oysters, don't they?

California is a place.
Topic: Local Information 7:52 am EDT, May 18, 2010

California is loaded. From Disneyland to farmland, we've got Scientology and superstars, Silicon and silicone, crips and bloods. The border. Krunkin' Clownin' Jerkin'. The surf and the turf. The boom and the bust. California is humanity run amuck and then packaged, branded and sold. California Cuisine, California Love, California Casual, California Gold, California Girls, and of course, California Dreams. If it exists in the world, it exists here and it does so with pizzaz.

Obviously, we love this stuff. That's why we're doing this project. Simply put, California is sensational. And the closer we look the better it gets: words and images, stories and songs, opinions and ideas. This project is ongoing. We hope you like what you see and say so. We plan to post often. So until that day, when we finally float off into the Pacific, California is a place. Stay tuned.

William T. Vollmann:

Across the border, the desert is the same but there are different secrets.

David Lynch, on Interview Project:

It's something that's human,
and you can't stay away from it.

California is a place.

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