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

The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist
Topic: Technology 7:23 am EDT, Apr  7, 2010

Fred Brooks has a new book.

Effective design is at the heart of everything from software development to engineering to architecture. But what do we really know about the design process? What leads to effective, elegant designs? The Design of Design addresses these questions.

These new essays by Fred Brooks contain extraordinary insights for designers in every discipline. Brooks pinpoints constants inherent in all design projects and uncovers processes and patterns likely to lead to excellence. Drawing on conversations with dozens of exceptional designers, as well as his own experiences in several design domains, Brooks observes that bold design decisions lead to better outcomes.

The author tracks the evolution of the design process, treats collaborative and distributed design, and illuminates what makes a truly great designer. He examines the nuts and bolts of design processes, including budget constraints of many kinds, aesthetics, design empiricism, and tools, and grounds this discussion in his own real-world examples-case studies ranging from home construction to IBM's Operating System/360. Throughout, Brooks reveals keys to success that every designer, design project manager, and design researcher should know.

Christopher Alexander:

A building or town will only be alive to the extent that it is governed by the timeless way.

The search which we make for this quality, in our own lives, is the central search of any person ... It is the search for those moments and situations when we are most alive.

Virginie Tisseau:

I ride the tram because every day it takes me to a place less familiar.

Richard Haass:

Let's not kid ourselves. We're not going to find some wonderful thing that's going to deliver large positive results at modest costs. It's not going to happen.

Decius:

I don't have a solution for the problem of bad taste.

Ira Glass:

Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.

Ellis:

All the time you spend tryin to get back what's been took from you there's more goin out the door. After a while you just try and get a tourniquet on it.

Brad Lemley:

It is a clock, but it is designed to do something no clock has ever been conceived to do -- run with perfect accuracy for 10,000 years.

Fake Steve:

The truth is, this is all about spiritual emptiness. That is why you're standing in line. Except for Scoble, who is an attention whore and just doing it to get attention.

Paul Carr:

If we all started thinking a bit more like friends, and a bit less like attention whores, the privacy problem would be solved at a stroke.

An exchange with Rory Stewart:

"We're beating the cat."

"Why are you beating the cat?"

"It's a cat-tiger strategy."

The Design of Design: Essays from a Computer Scientist


How many zombies do you know?
Topic: Science 10:20 am EDT, Mar 20, 2010

Andrew Gelman and George Romero:

In the absence of hard data, zombie researchers have studied outbreaks and their dynamics using differential equation models (Munz et al., 2009, Lakeland, 2010) and, more recently, agent-based models (Messer, 2010).

But mathematical models are not enough. We need data.

Alon Halevy, Peter Norvig, and Fernando Pereira:

Invariably, simple models and a lot of data trump more elaborate models based on less data.

So, follow the data.

Decius:

Money for me, databases for you.

Sense Networks:

We asked ourselves: with all this real-time data, what else could we do for a city?

Nightlife enhancement was the obvious answer.

Philip Munz et al:

We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We show that only quick, aggressive attacks can stave off the doomsday scenario: the collapse of society as zombies overtake us all.

Stop Worrying:

Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Is it that bad, sir?
General Jack D. Ripper: Looks like it's pretty hairy.

Embrace the suck:

Wendell: It's a mess, ain't it Sheriff?

Bell: If it ain't, it'll do til the mess gets here.

How many zombies do you know?


Living Data
Topic: Technology 10:20 am EDT, Mar 20, 2010

Phil Agre, 1994:

Despite all the hype about faster and better and cheaper and friendlier, it's amazing how little the foundations of computing have changed. From the 1940s to today, the raw material of computation has been something called "data." Data is made of bits. But data isn't just numbers -- it's also a way of thinking about the relationship between the abstract territory inside computers and the concrete territory outside them. Data has meaning -- it represents the world.

We're so accustomed to data that hardly anyone questions it.

But data is obsolete. The problem with data is that it's dead.

Managers everywhere mostly use computers to justify the actions they've already decided on, and dead data can't call them on their games.

Vannevar Bush, 1945:

Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory. His excursions may be more enjoyable if he can reacquire the privilege of forgetting the manifold things he does not need to have immediately at hand, with some assurance that he can find them again if they prove important.

Decius:

Money for me, databases for you.

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.

William Deresiewicz:

For too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going. Who can answer questions, but don't know how to ask them. Who can fulfill goals, but don't know how to set them. Who think about how to get things done, but not whether they're worth doing in the first place. What we have now are the greatest technocrats the world has ever seen, people who have been trained to be incredibly good at one specific thing, but who have no interest in anything beyond their area of expertise. What we don't have are leaders.

Decius:

It isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

Benjamin Franklin:

It was about this time I conceived the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.

Living Data


The Shout Doctrine
Topic: Politics and Law 7:30 am EDT, Mar 17, 2010

Mark Kingwell:

Incivility doesn't just threaten the etiquette of interchange, it threatens democracy.

We're all in a mess of trouble, though not for the reasons you may think.

An exchange:

Wendell: It's a mess, ain't it Sheriff?

Bell: If it ain't, it'll do til the mess gets here.

"Leonard Nimoy":

It's all lies. But they're entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth?

The answer ... is No.

Jon Stewart:

Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.

Stop.

Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.

See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

Tim Kreider:

Quite a lot of what passes itself off as a dialogue about our society consists of people trying to justify their own choices as the only right or natural ones by denouncing others' as selfish or pathological or wrong.

Decius:

I've come to the conclusion that you actually want shifty, dishonest politicians elected by an apathetic populace. This means that things are working. I'm confident that technology has improved the resources available to people if/when they choose to act. So far they don't need to, largely. Don't wish for times when they do.

Decius:

There is a lot of bad speech in our democracy. I don't have a solution for the problem of bad taste. But in my experience the answer to bad speech has always been more speech. It isn't Congress that must change -- it is us.

Kingwell:

Question: what is the only thing worse than un-civil discourse? Answer: no discourse at all.

It is sometimes said that literacy is the software of democracy. Let's be more accurate, and more demanding. The real software of democracy is not bare literacy, which permits and even enjoys all manner of rhetorical nonsense and short-sighted demagoguery. It is political literacy, the ability to engage in critical dialogue with ideas both agreeable and disagreeable, interests that align with ours and those that do not. We need to learn this skill, run it, and revise it constantly by repeated engagements. We must be prepared to sacrifice something we value, for the sake of the larger good.

On John McCain:

In all his speeches, John McCain urges Americans to make sacrifices for a country that is both "an idea and a cause".

He is not asking them to suffer anything he would not suffer himself.

But many voters would rather not suffer at all.

Cormac McCarthy:

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

The Shout Doctrine


Plastic Bag
Topic: Arts 9:59 am EDT, Mar 14, 2010

This short film by American director Ramin Bahrani (Goodbye Solo) traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world.

In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex -- a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away.

Decius:

The idea that there is a garbage patch that spans the Pacific is nearly the most disgusting thing I can imagine.

Decius:

One must assume that all garbage is monitored by the state. Anything less would be a pre-911 mentality.

Decius:

Money for me, databases for you.

Plastic Bag


Toward a New Alexandria
Topic: Society 9:59 am EDT, Mar 14, 2010

Lisbet Rausing:

It is clear that if a new Alexandria is to be built, it needs to be built for the long term, with an unwavering commitment to archival preservation and the public good.

In today's era of electronic abundance, how can libraries archive the dreams and experiences of humankind? What do we discard?

David Lynch:

So many things these days are made to look at later. Why not just have the experience and remember it?

Rivka Galchen:

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

Ira Glass:

Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.

Rausing:

We have belatedly realized that humankind understands only poorly what will last through the ages.

You see the problem. What is the library, when the totality of experience approaches that which can be remembered?

Decius:

Money for me, databases for you.

Jules Dupuit:

Having refused the poor what is necessary, they give the rich what is superfluous.

Alberto Manguel:

For the last seven years, I've lived in an old stone presbytery in France, south of the Loire Valley, in a village of fewer than 10 houses. I chose the place because next to the 15th-century house itself was a barn, partly torn down centuries ago, large enough to accommodate my library of some 30,000 books, assembled over six itinerant decades. I knew that once the books found their place, I would find mine.

Brad Lemley:

It is a clock, but it is designed to do something no clock has ever been conceived to do -- run with perfect accuracy for 10,000 years.

Stewart Brand:

We're building a 10,000-year clock, designed by Danny Hillis, and we're figuring out what a 10,000-year library might be good for. If the clock or the library could be useful to things you want to happen in the world, how would you advise them to proceed?

Toward a New Alexandria


Tron Legacy
Topic: Arts 9:59 am EDT, Mar 14, 2010

Keep your cyber clean.

TRON is a 3D high-tech adventure set in a digital world that's unlike anything ever captured on the big screen.

Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), looks into his father's disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years.

Along with Kevin's loyal confidant (Olivia Wilde), father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous.

Decius:

This looks good!

k:

This is gonna be sooo bad.

Bruce Schneier:

More is coming.

Thomas Powers:

Is more what we really need?

Tim Kreider's married friend:

It's not as if being married means you're any less alone.

Decius:

Wow, life is boring.

Tron Legacy


The Eyes Have It
Topic: Arts 7:30 am EST, Mar 10, 2010

Philip K. Dick:

"What's wrong, dear?" my wife asked.

I couldn't tell her. Knowledge like this was too much for the ordinary run-of-the-mill person. I had to keep it to myself.

Rattle:

Paranoia about the conspiracy is always justified. It's just usually misplaced.

Cory Doctorow:

His ex-wife. He hadn't thought of her in years. Well, months. Weeks, certainly. She'd been a brilliant computer scientist, the valedictorian of her Positronic Complexity Engineering class at the UNATS Robotics school at the University of Toronto. Dumping her husband and her daughter was bad enough, but the worst of it was that she dumped her country and its way of life. Now she was ensconced in her own research lab in Beijing, making the kinds of runaway Positronics that made the loathsome robots of UNATS look categorically beneficent.

He itched to wiretap her, to read her email or listen in on her phone conversations. He could have done that when they were still together, but he never had. If he had, he would have found out what she was planning. He could have talked her out of it.

The Eyes Have It


Reasonable Expectations
Topic: Politics and Law 7:30 am EST, Mar 10, 2010

Decius:

We need to balance privacy interests with the state's interest in monitoring suspected criminals.

CNCI Initiatives:

1. Manage the Federal Enterprise Network as a single network enterprise with Trusted Internet Connections.
2. Deploy an intrusion detection system of sensors across the Federal enterprise.
3. Pursue deployment of intrusion prevention systems across the Federal enterprise.
4: Coordinate and redirect research and development (R&D) efforts.
5. Connect current cyber ops centers to enhance situational awareness.
6. Develop and implement a government-wide cyber counterintelligence (CI) plan.
7. Increase the security of our classified networks.
8. Expand cyber education.
9. Define and develop enduring "leap-ahead" technology, strategies, and programs.
10. Define and develop enduring deterrence strategies and programs.
11. Develop a multi-pronged approach for global supply chain risk management.
12. Define the Federal role for extending cybersecurity into critical infrastructure domains.

Ellen Nakashima:

The administration did not declassify a summary of the legal justification of Einstein 3. The analysis is based on the notion that the public has no reasonable expectation of privacy in communications to the government, said sources familiar with it.

Siobhan Gorman:

The White House's new cyber-security chief, Howard Schmidt, said addressing potential privacy concerns was one of the ten initial steps he planned to take.

"We're really paying attention, and we get it," he said.

Decius:

What you tell Google you've told the government.

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 Time It Takes
Topic: Science 7:30 am EST, Mar 10, 2010

Seth Godin:

It was a tremendous gift, this ability to choose.

The best part of college is that you could become whatever you wanted to become, but most people just do what they think they must.

Nature's editors, on BGI:

Are these budding scientists short-changing themselves by focusing so single-mindedly on one category of technical expertise in the shape of high-throughput genomic sequencing?

Would the slower, less tightly focused training provided by Western-style postgraduate study ultimately allow them to become more imaginative and creative in their research?

The answer is not clear-cut.

Nancy Andreasen:

If you're at the cutting edge, then you're going to bleed.

Louis Menand:

Getting a Ph.D. today means spending your 20's in graduate school, plunging into debt, writing a dissertation no one will read -- and becoming more narrow and more bitter each step of the way.

Has American higher education become a dinosaur?

Mark C. Taylor:

Graduate education is the Detroit of higher learning.

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.

Cormac McCarthy:

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

Richard Sennett:

Doing a job properly takes the time it takes.

Alain de Botton:

Our exertions generally find no enduring physical correlatives. We are diluted in gigantic intangible collective projects, which leave us wondering what we did last year and, more profoundly, where we have gone and quite what we have amounted to. We confront our lost energies in the pathos of the retirement party.

Decius:

Wow, life is boring.


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