Saturday, December 31, 2005

Of all the qualities in a manager conducive to innovation initiative, a degree of uncertainty may be the most powerful. If a manager is confident but uncertain – confident that the job will get done but without being certain of exactly the best way of doing it – employees are likely to have more room to be creative, alert, and self-starting.

--- Ellen Langer, Mindfullness (1989) Ch. 8, p 143
The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.

--- Arnold

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Some people become radical out of hatred. Others become radical out of love and sympathy. I come out of the second class. I have hated very few people... I have faith, despite the imperfections of the human race, that a better society, a better world, a more just world, a kindlier world can come into being.

--- I.F. Stone, left-wing journalist, quoted in Writer's Almanac, 24 December 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

--- Sir Winston Churchill

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Not believe in Web 2.0! You might as well not believe in fairies!

--- Rex Hammock

Quote courtesy's daily email:
"Not believe in Web 2.0! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get
your papa to hire Tim O'Reilly to come over to your house and explain Web 2.0 to
you, but even if Tim O'Reilly showed up and you didn't understand what the heck
he was talking about, what would that prove? So what if nobody can actually
explain Web 2.0 without using techno babble and business buzzwords? That is no
sign that there is no Web 2.0. The most real things in the world are those that
neither children nor men can see -- and that's why they develop buzzwords. Did
you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof
that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there
are unseen and unseeable in the world."

-- Rex Hammock explains the mystery behind the elusive concept of Web 2.0

Sunday, December 18, 2005

When everyone is different, the pointing out of differences is merely description. But when everyone is trying to look the same, the pointing out of difference has the ring of prejudice.

--- Natalia Ilyin, Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture (2000), "Farrah and the Song Girls", p 100

This is one of the best books I've read in ages. Ilyin is smart, hilariously funny, and writes about deep, complex subjects in a deceptively simple way. Here's the quote in context:

Rita's best friend Doris who lived across the street, brought Rita big flats of frozen ravioli. Were they Italian-American? Who knew?


Rita only evidenced her German background in her attraction to Hummel
figurines. My friend Leslie, half Greek, knew no Greek, and my sisters andI spoke no Russian. My friend Claire was ethnically Jewish, now that I look back on it, but no one was exactly observing Yom Kippur over there. I think some black people lived in the house with the abundant azaleas, but I never saw them.

The people who moved to Las Gallinas Avenue came there without a past, and lived like stateless people. They came with no history, and made none.

In New York people routinely call you up and say things like "Come on over! My sister's here with her Serbian boyfriend, and our neighbors are going to drop by -- you remember them -- she's Ashkenazi and he's Sephardic." But when I was growing up in California, everyone in my white-bread suburb was making an effort to be identical.

When everyone is different, the pointing out of differences is merely description. But when everyone is trying to look the same, the pointing out of difference has the ring of prejudice. Once, when my European brother-in-law described some friend of his as a second-generation Hungarian, I remember thinking, "Aren't we beyond that yet?" as if it were only a matter of time until the entire country would develop cultural amnesia, and what a good thing that would be.

There are no bits that are desired by humans that are not available [on the web]

--- Marc Smith, in conversation 15 December 2005. When checking this with Marc, this was his reply:
In my typical hyperbolic style: yes, I said this.

Of course I am wildly overstating, the public internet is only a fraction of the net; vast databases of content and data are locked up all over the place. But there is a kernel of truth in this assertion: a business model that depends on the widespread distribution of bits which remain in a controlled container will not long stand. To date I do not know of a DRM system that is not cracked. Every XBOX, PS2, Hollywood video, recording, etc. is available on the (not so) darknet right now. Knowledge of the darknet is spreading fast – most people have some infringing content. A business model based on these files not being available because of some novel technical innovation (present or future) seems misguided. A business based in part on selling such technology seems misguided – perhaps we should rename DRM “Doesn’t Really Matter”?
Basic research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing

-- Attributed to Werner von Braun. For more Von Braun quotes, see,

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

God invented war so that Americans could learn geography

--- Iranian blogger, quoted by Nasrin Alavi in her book on Iranian blogs, "We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs"; heard on Radio Open Source, 13 Dec 2005 show on Iran: Demographics and Democracy.

Monday, December 12, 2005

If I ever do take an active part in the world, it will be as a thinker and demoralizer. I will simply tell the truth: but that truth will be horrible, cruel, naked.

--- Gustave Flaubert, cited in Writer's Almanac, Monday 12 December 2005

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself.

--- James Thurber

Saturday, November 26, 2005

If the twentieth century, with first the telegraph, then the telephone, and finally the internet, was about communication; then, the twenty-first century will be about integration

--- Stanley Crouch, quoted (paraphrased?) by Robert Dean in an review of Wynton Marsalis' "All Rise"

Monday, November 21, 2005

Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.

---- Napoleon

Saturday, November 05, 2005

In a hop garden, a fruit garden, a kitchen garden, both the rent of the landlord, and the profit of the farmer, are generally greater than in a corn or grass field. But to bring the ground into this condition requires more expense. Hence a greater rent becomes due to the landlord. It requires, too, a more attentive and skilful management. Hence a greater profit becomes due to the farmer. The crop too, at least in the hop and fruit garden, is more precarious. Its price, therefore, besides compensating all occasional losses, must afford something like the profit of insurance. The circumstances of gardeners, generally mean, and always moderate, may satisfy us that their great ingenuity is not commonly over-recompensed. Their delightful art is practised by so many rich people for amusement, that little advantage is to be made by those who practise it for profit; because the persons who should naturally be their best customers supply themselves with all their most precious productions.

-- Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (1776), Bk I, Ch. XI, Pt. I,
Adam Smith on the power of personal wealth - money only confers power if you spend it (by highlight):

"Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power. But the person who either acquires, or succeeds to a great fortune, does not necessarily acquire or succeed to any political power, either civil or military. His fortune may, perhaps, afford him the means of acquiring both, but the mere possession of that fortune does not necessarily convey to him either. The power which that possession immediately and directly conveys to him, is the power of purchasing; a certain command over all the labour, or over all the produce of labour, which is then in the market. His fortune is greater or less, precisely in proportion to the extent of this power; or to the quantity either of other men's labour, or, what is the same thing, of the produce of other men's labour, which it enables him to purchase or command. The exchangeable value of everything must always be precisely equal to the extent of this power which it conveys to its owner. "

Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776, Book 1, Chapter 5 "Of the Real and Nominal Price of Commodities, or their Price in Labour, and their Price in Money",

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hell with the fires out.

-- General Alfred Sully's description of the Dakotas after he patrolled the area in 1864. Quoted in Writer's Almanac, 2 November 2005

Friday, October 28, 2005

Poverty is when people lack the means to appear in public without shame

-- Amrtya Sen, paraphrased by William Greider in The Soul of Capitalism (2003) p.9
One paradox of the information age is that, while we are able to find out instantly so many more things than the ancestors could ever know, the anchor of self-knowledge -- who we are and where we fit in, what we count for in this new scheme -- seems to be weaker.

-- William Greider, The Soul of Capitalism (2003), p. 8

Friday, October 21, 2005

We originally came to India for the [low] cost. We stayed because of the quality, and now we're investing because of the innovation

-- Dan Scheinman, Sr. VP of Corporate Development, Cisco; quoted in Cisco Seeks Talent Abroad, Lisa DiCarlo, Forbes, 21 Oct 2005

From the story:

Cisco (nasdaq: CSCO - news - people ) has invested in and had operations in India for several years but is stepping up its investement partly because it can't ignore India's brainpower and partly because of market reforms that favor business and foreign investment.

"We originally came to India for the [low] cost. We stayed because of the quality, and now we're investing because of the innovation," says Dan Scheinman, senior vice president of corporate development. He notes that India's universities are churning out tens of thousands of engineers, many of whom used to come to the U.S. after graduating, but who are now choosing to stay at home.

Cisco, which has less than 5% of its global workforce in India, didn't want to miss out. Scheinman says the country is producing an "incredible number of engineers who are building some of the world's most advanced networks and applications," led by broadband and mobile applications. That throws a harsh light on the dwindling number of young Americans going into the sciences and helps explain why U.S. companies are looking elsewhere to stay competitive.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Software as process crystallized in programs and workflow, and interpreted by hardware, is bureaucracy

-- George Spix, email, 18 October 2005
The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway.

-- Esther Dyson, panel discussion in Time Magazine, 16 Oct 2005

Quote in context:


ESTHER DYSON, editor of technology newsletter Release 1.0 for CNET Networks: The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect. In my own experience, it has drawn my family closer, as we post pictures on Flickr. It has done more than tap into something latent; it has actually created something that wasn't there with the younger family members. We couldn't do that before because we were all geographically separated.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DRM will be like the Prohibition

-- Jon Pincus, in coversation, 6 October 2005

Monday, October 03, 2005

"The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil"

-- Sheikh Zaki Yamani, a Saudi Arabian who served as his country's oil minister three decades ago

Quoted by the Economist, The End of the Oil Age, 23 Oct 2003

Sunday, September 25, 2005

"[A] woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

-- Dr Johnson. The reference to women makes it non-PC these days, but it can be easily adapted to any phenomenon the citer disparages. Quote in context, collected by Boswell in the Life, according to the Samuel Johnson site:
I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson: "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Friday, September 23, 2005

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

George Bernard Shaw
(cited on BrainyQuote)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

"[N]obody is going to earn any points for slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read"

Nancy Pearl, author of "Book Lust", and former librarian

Source: Christian Science Monitor interview with Nancy Pearl, Todd Crowell, 11 August 2005

Quote in context:
Pearl says she is a strong believer that no one should ever finish a book
they are not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed it is. "Believe
me," she says, "nobody is going to earn any points for slogging their way
through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read
." She finishes
probably one book for every five she starts.

She expounds what she calls the "50 page" rule: If a book doesn't grab
you in the first 50 pages, put it down and try something else. Life is short,
and there are many books to read. (She often returns to finish books she set
aside. Reading enjoyment is as much a matter of the reader's mood as it is the
style and content of the book, she says.)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

"When new technologies come along, they provoke a political question."

Source: Paul Starr, author of The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communications, On the Media Interview with Brooke Gladstone, 30 April 2004, rebroadcast 7 August 2005.

Context from the transcript:

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Now, in your book, over and over again you demonstrate that, contrary to what I think is the popular opinion today, it wasn't the technology that pushed forward how we have our national conversation -- that the ground was already tilled for that kind of communication before the technology came along.

PAUL STARR: Well, what I suggest in this book is that when new technologies come along, they provoke a political question -- how is this new medium going to be handled? Is it going to be private? Is it going to be public? Is it going to be a military technology? What will be the basic purposes that it serves? And so Europe and America often dealt with the same technology in very different ways. When the electric telegraph first appeared, the Europeans treated it as a military technology. We treated it as a commercial technology. The telephone, same thing. There was a period in the 1890s, early 1900s when there were hundreds of little mutual telephone companies, independent telephone cooperatives that were established, and telephones spread much more widely, much faster in America than elsewhere.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are

Source: Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit, 2005, p61

Context: Someone who lies and someone who tells the truth are playing on opposite sides, so to speak, in the same game. Each responds to the facts as he understands them, although the response of the one is guided by the authority of the truth, while the response of the other defies that authority and refuses to meet its demands. The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Practical politics consists in ignoring facts.

--- Henry B. Adams

Source: The web, passim. No citation found.

Monday, July 18, 2005

"There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know until he takes up a pen to write."

William Makepeace Thackeray

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"[D]ifferent social contracts are not Pareto—rankable: rich enough agents always prefer a more laissez-faire society, while those who are poor enough always want more of a welfare state."
Source: Roland BĂ©nabou, "Inequality, Technology, and the Social Contract", October 2004,, as online 13 July 2005

He then examines how these two social models compare in terms of aggregate growth. Cutting out the Greek symbols, he writes:

"Compared to a more laissez-faire alternative, a more redistributive social contract is associated with lower inequality, and
1) has higher growth when tax distortions are small relative to those induced by credit constraints on the accumulation of human capital;
2) has lower growth when tax distortions are high and the credit—constraint effect is weak"

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The ability to illustrate a spiritual event in the physical world is the central truth of icon painting. Here, that which belongs to the lower world -- the physical materials of wood and paint-- has been transformed and brought to new life by the higher, spiritual world of divine light and energy contacted through contemplative prayer. The colours play on our sensibilities like musical harmonies and enable us, through inner resonance, to open to a higher power. The icon's symmetry and balanced form corresponds to the meditative state of the mystic, where the exterior is passionless and without movement. This external stillness preconditions the inner state, and it is here that the higher life appears appears. At the centre of the painting is a strong, vertical axis around which flow the movements and energies expressed by colour and form.

Source: Richard Temple, Icons: Divine Beauty, Saqi Books 2004, p 87
"Behind these questions of style lie subtle metaphysical influences in which reside the essential difference between Eastern and Western Christian art in the 14th century. [...] It can be said that Western art strove essentially for realism, while Byzantine art strove essentially for transcendentalism. Western painting attempted to create the illusion of a third dimension while working on a two-dimensional plane. Icon painting, while using the same picture plane of two dimensions, extends not into the third dimension but rather into the fourth dimension or 'space-time', where space is infinity and time is eternity. This is the key to understanding the Byzantine icon in relation to Western painting. We see that the icon painter uses techniques of abstraction and conscious distortion, by which he tries to show us things we usually regard as invisible."

Source: Richard Temple, Icons: Divine Beauty, Saqi Books 2004, p 71

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

"An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."

G. K. Chesterton, for more see

Sunday, June 26, 2005

"Technology will always win. You can delay technology by legal interference, but technology will flow around legal barriers."

Andy Grove. Source: Michael Kanellos, reporting on the 18 May 2005 Intel shareholders meeting where Grove retired, reportedly making these comments: "For years and years I have wanted to have a law named after me. Call it a case of Moore envy. And this is it. Technology will always win. You can delay technology by legal interference, but technology will flow around legal barriers. "
"[The] author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself"

Source: Sir Peter Medawar review of Teilhard de Chradin's The Phenomenon of Man. Fuller quote: "It is a book widely held to be of the utmost profundity and significance; it created something like a sensation upon its publication in France, and some reviewers hereabouts called it the Book of the Year --- one, the Book of the Century. Yet the greater part of it, I shall show, is nonsense, tricked out with a variety of metaphysical conceits, and its author can be excused of dishonesty only on the grounds that before deceiving others he has taken great pains to deceive himself. "

Friday, June 24, 2005

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Saturday, June 18, 2005

"I work continuously within the shadow of failure. For every novel that makes it to my publishers' desk, there are at least five or six that died on the way."

Gail Godwin, novelist
Cited in Writer's Almanac, 18 June 2005

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."

Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement, 15 June 2005