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

1-Bit Symphony
Topic: Arts 8:29 am EDT, Jun 21, 2010

Tristan Perich:

1-Bit Symphony is an electronic composition in five movements on a single microchip. Though housed in a CD jewel case like his first circuit album (1-Bit Music 2004-05), 1-Bit Symphony is not a recording in the traditional sense; it literally "performs" its music live when turned on. A complete electronic circuit -- programmed by the artist and assembled by hand -- plays the music through a headphone jack mounted into the case itself. The project is set to be released on Cantaloupe Music on August 24, 2010.

David Hajdu:

Guitar Hero and Rock Band involve musicianship in the same sense that chess involves military service. Rocking, like rooking, is the thematic action; but the content is the form, the rules.

Brian Eno:

It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate -- history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber.

1-Bit Symphony

arXiv vs. snarXiv
Topic: Science 8:29 am EDT, Jun 21, 2010

David Simmons-Duffin:

The snarXiv is a ran­dom high-energy the­ory paper gen­er­a­tor incor­po­rat­ing all the lat­est trends, entropic rea­son­ing, and excit­ing mod­uli spaces. The arXiv is sim­i­lar, but occa­sion­ally less ran­dom.

Marge Simpson:

Bart, don't make fun of grad students! They just made a terrible life choice.

Ira Glass:

Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.

Martin Schwartz:

Science makes me feel stupid too. It's just that I've gotten used to it.

arXiv vs. snarXiv

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
Topic: Society 8:29 am EDT, Jun 21, 2010

John Koenig:

The Upper Midwest's third-largest compendium of the outer spatters of the emotional palette. Our mission is to harpoon, bag and tag wild sorrows then release them back into the subconscious.

A sampler:

dry pocket, n. the phantom vibration of a hip whose corresponding pocket is phoneless ...

contact high-five, n. an innocuous touch by someone just doing their job--a barber, yoga instructor or friendly waitress--that you enjoy more than you'd like to admit, a feeling of connection so stupefyingly simple that it cheapens the power of the written word, so that by the year 2025, aspiring novelists would be better off just giving people a hug.

maison d'etre, n. satisfaction with the decisive sounds of arriving home, from surfing the gearshift into park to clacking open the deadbolt, a morse code reminder that your greatest power is to renounce what you most want to hold onto.

Cory Doctorow:

The real reason to wear the mask is to spare others the discomfort of seeing your facial expression ...

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The Retrospectively Marvelous Part
Topic: Technology 6:58 am EDT, Jun 16, 2010

Paul Graham:

I'm not saying we should stop, but I think we should at least examine which lies we tell and why.

David Foster Wallace:

Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation [...] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet -- and this was the retrospectively marvelous part -- even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end's attention might be similarly divided.

Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable.

Caterina Fake:

All those people looking for connection, that perennial human desire. It's just insatiable.

David Foster Wallace:

One thing TV does is help us deny that we're lonely. The interesting thing is why we're so desperate for this anesthetic against loneliness.

Adam Shand:

It's possible to get accustomed to anything. Make bloody sure you are aware of what you've become accustomed to.

Linda Stone:

Continuous partial attention is neither good nor bad, it just is.

David Meyer:

People aren't aware what's happening to their mental processes, in the same way that people years ago couldn't look into their lungs and see the residual deposits.

The damage will take decades to understand, let alone fix.

Neil Howe:

If you think that things couldn't get any worse, wait till the 2020s.

We must re-exmaine even our most cherished beliefs
Topic: Society 7:56 am EDT, Jun  8, 2010

Justin E.H. Smith:

Turning to empirical methods is valuable, but not at the cost of neglecting what we already know.

John Allen Paulos:

Unless we know how things are counted, we don't know if it's wise to count on the numbers.

Jeffrey Moore:

Do you know, or are you guessing? Do you know, or are you guessing? You're guessing, aren't you? No points! 0! You don't get any points for guessing!

Tom Friedman:

We're entering an era where being in politics is going to be more than anything else about taking things away from people. It's going to be very, very interesting.

Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris:

We can rely on accumulated data, but too often we don't. Why not? Because our intuitions respond to vivid stories, not abstract statistics.

Kyle Lundstedt:

From the lenders' standpoint, people who stay in their homes without paying the mortgage or actively trying to work out some other solution, like selling it, are "milking the process."

An exchange:

Charlie Rose: Don't you think we've milked this for about as much as we can, Richard?

Richard Florida: I hope not, Charlie. I hope not.

Richard Florida:

We have come to an economic juncture where we must re-examine even our most cherished beliefs.

Mark Foulon:

We have tried incremental steps and they have proven insufficient.

Paul Volcker:

The nature and depth of the financial crisis is forcing us to reconsider some of the basic tenets of financial theory.

Any thoughts -- any longings -- that participants in the financial community might have had that conditions were returning to normal (implicitly promising the return of high compensation) should by now be shattered.

Today's concerns may soon become tomorrow's existential crises.

Edward Chancellor:

There is a danger the proposed fiscal tightening in the eurozone will lead to further deflation and economic collapse. The Spanish government faces "the paradox of public thrift": the less it borrows, the more it will end up owing.


Our job is to apply our well-earned cynicism and fail to follow the baby boomers off a cliff in their pursuit of some idealistic agenda.

Ridley Scott:

Cynicism will lead you to the truth. Or vice versa.

John Givings:

Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.

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

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