Monday, December 25, 2006

I didn't know how to live, so I tried to lose myself / in what I did.

--- Greg Glazner, poet, opening lines of the 1997 collection "Singularity," from the poem "Against the Truth."

Monday, December 11, 2006

I write pieces that I haven't learned how to like yet

--- Composer Herbert Brün, personal communication to composer Bret Battey, reported by Battey in, December 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Overwork has become a competition. I don't think it's a competition worth winning.

--- Laura Stack, author of "Leave the Office Earlier," quoted in "'Extreme' jobs on the rise," Marilyn Gardner, Christian Science Monitor, 4 Dec 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

[L]ibertarians have always tended to see social conservatives as rubes ready to thump nonbelievers on the head with the Bible first chance they get, and social conservatives have always tended to see libertarians as dope-smoking devil-worshippers.

--- Ryan Sager in “The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party,” quoted in The neglected swing voters , The Economist, Oct 19th 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I believe that the so-called "writing block" is a product of some kind of disproportion between your standards and your performance ... One should lower his standards until there is no felt threshold to go over in writing. It's easy to write. You just shouldn't have standards that inhibit you from writing.

--- Poet William Stafford, quoted by Roy Peter Clark in "Writing Tool #33: Rehearsal"

Monday, November 20, 2006

It's never too late to be who you might have been

--- George Eliot, English novelist (1819 - 1880)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We insist that our world is increasingly complex, yet we have created a communications culture that has decreased the time available for us to sit and think, uninterrupted.

--- Shelly Turkle, sociologist, in New Scientist interview, Living online: I'll have to ask my friends, 16 Sep 2006, issue #2569

Monday, October 23, 2006

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

--- Bertrand Russel, cited by Anu Garg in A Word A Day, 23 Oct 2006,

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

We all know what to do, we just don't know how to win the election afterwards.

--- Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg, cited by The Economist in the Charlemagne column, 23 Sep 2006, p. 64

The Economist continues: "For fear of losing, politicians steer clear of telling voters harsh truths. For fear of being found out, they steer clear of outright lies. Many governments end up winning by avoiding hard choices and muddling through until a crisis becomes so imminent that tough measures are unavoidable."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

There are two kinds of fool. One says, "This is old and therefore good."And one says, "This is new and therefore better."

--- Ascribed to science fiction novelist John Brunner (1934-1995). Thanks to Pam Heath.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.

---Bill Moyers, journalist (1934- ), quoted by Anu Garg in his A.Word.A.Day email:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Question: What's yellow, linear, normed, and complete? Answer: A Bananach space

--- Renteln, P. and Dundes, A. "Foolproof: A Sampling of Mathematical Folk Humor." Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 52, 24-34, 2005, cited in

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Apply the test of true and false to problems themselves. Condemn false problems and reconcile truth and creation at the level of problems.

--- Gilles Deleuze (1991:15), Bergsonism, trans. H.Tomlinson and B.Habberjam, New York, Zone Books, quoted by Elie During in "'A History of Problems' : Bergson and the French Epistemological Tradition," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol.35, n°1, January 2004,

As Deleuze reportedly goes on : 'While it is relatively easy to define the true and the false in relation to solutions whose problems have already been stated, it seems much more difficult to say in what the true and the false consist when applied to the process of stating problems.' (ibid., 16).
The truth is that in philosophy and even elsewhere it is a question of finding the problem and hence of posing it even more than of solving it. For a speculative problem is solved as soon as it is well posed.

--- Henri Bergson 'L'Intuition philosophique,' in La Pensée et le Mouvant, Paris, PUF, 1934:51, quoted by Elie During in "'A History of Problems' : Bergson and the French Epistemological Tradition," Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology, vol.35, n°1, January 2004,
Not everyone who wanders is lost

--- JRR Tolkien, quoted by Peter Morville in Ambient Findability (O'Reilly, 2005)
Consciousness is really only a net of communication between human beings; it is only as such that it had to develop; a solitary human being who lived like a beast of prey would not have needed it.

--- Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (1887; New York: Vintage, 1974) p. 298, quoted in Seeing Red, Nicholas Humphrey (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006) p. 104

More Nietzsche in the same vein from Seeing Red, same page:
"To understand another person, that is to imitate his feelings in ourselves, we . . . produce the feeling in ourelves by imitating with our own body the expression of his eyes, his voice, his walk, his bearing. Then a similar feeling arises in us in consequence of an ancient association between movement and sensation. We have brought our skill in understanding the feelings of others to a high state of perfection and in the presencec of another person we are always almost involuntarily practicing this skill."

Friedrich Nietzshe, "Daybreak," in A Nietzsche Reader, ed. and trans. R. J. Hollingdale (1881; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p. 156

Monday, August 14, 2006

Women have an eight-lane superhighway for processing emotion, while men have a small country road. Men have O'Hare Airport as a hub for processing thoughts about sex, where women have the airfield nearby that lands small and private planes.

--- UCSF neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, quoted in "Femme mentale: San Francisco neuropsychiatrist says differences between women's and men's brains are very real, and the sooner we all understand it, the better," San Francisco Chronicle, 6 Aug 2006

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don't know which half.

--- John Wanamaker, a devoutly Christian merchant from Philadelphia, who in the 1870s not only invented department stores and price tags, but also became the first modern advertiser when he bought space in newspapers to promote his stores. Source: "Internet advertising: The ultimate marketing machine," The Economist print edition, Jul 6th 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

--- T S Eliot, from The Rock, see, ref from Jonathan Aronson

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I'm an agnostic I suppose, but an Anglican agnostic, of course.

--- Poet Philip Larkin. From Philip Motion's biography, cited in David Yezzi, "A Journey From Irony to Mystery," Wall Street Journal 24 June 2006

In context from the WSJ, and another good quote:
In his biography of Larkin, Andrew Motion, England's current poet laureate,
quotes Larkin's stock reply to people curious about his faith: "I'm an agnostic
I suppose," he would say, "but an Anglican agnostic, of course."

Larkin did keep a Bible on a huge lectern in his bedroom, which he pored over when shaving. Having read it cover to cover, he pronounced it "absolute balls. Beautiful, of course. But balls."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

But the way the prophets of the twentieth century went to work was this. They took something or other that was certainly going on in their time, and then said that it would go on more and more until something extraordinary happened. And very often they added that in some odd place that extraordinary thing had happened, and that it showed the signs of the times.

[A few pages later:]

"Just as," said Dr. Pellkins, in a fine passage, "... just as when we see a pig in a litter larger than the other pigs, we know that by an unalterable law of the Inscrutable it will some day be larger than an elephant, just as we know, when we see weeds and dandelions growing more and more thickly in a garden, that they must, in spite of all our efforts, grow taller than the chimney-pots and swallow the house from sight, so we know and reverently acknowledge, that when any power in human politics has shown for any period of time any considerable activity, it will go on until it reaches to the sky."

--- G.K. Chesterton: The Napoleon of Notting Hill, 1904. Thanks to S.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Success consists of conquering the fear of failure

--- Saint Beuve

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Shutting down peer-two-peer networks was like taking a half-course of antibiotics every six months. It just led to the evolution of more decentralized networks that are more efficient and more difficult to shut down.

--- Tom McInerney, co-founder of "legit" file-sharing site, quoted in "What'll it be, matey? The hangman's rope or service to the queen?", Good Morning Silicon Valley, June 27, 2006

Monday, June 19, 2006

The news, as "lecture," is giving way to the news as a "conversation."

--- Tom Curley, President and CEO, Associated Press, remarks at the Online News Association Conference, Nov. 12, 2004, cited by Jay Rosen, Web Users Open the Gates, special to, June 19, 2006

Sunday, June 18, 2006

There are no facts in the future

-- Edmond (Ed) Thomas, engineer and partner in the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire and Grannis, former Chief Engineer of the Federal Communications Commission and CTO at Verizon, in conversation, 14 June 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

A successful businessman visted his old economics professor. While chatting, the former student noticed an exam on the professor's desk and began reading. Shocked, he announced, "This is the same exam you gave me fifteen years ago! Aren't you afraid the students are just going to track down old tests?" The professor laughed. "No, that's okay. I do keep the same questions. It's the answers I change every year."

--- Todd Bucholtz in "New ideas from dead economists", 1989, p 236
I stood among them, but not of them.

--- Lord Byron, cited by Todd Bucholtz in "New ideas from dead economists", 1989, p 106

More info, from

I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud
Of thoughts which were not their thoughts.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto iii. Stanza 113.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A price as low as literally free can mean the economic equivalent of a free kitten -- I may get a free kitten, but then I have to deal with the consequences, with no exit strategy.

--- Bruce Sterling, Shaping Things, Ch. 9, p. 71

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Jill B. told me about these two poems her father, Chippy Armstrong, used to quote:

A man is not old when his hair turns grey
A man is not old when his teeth decay
But a man is ready for his last long sleep
When his mind makes appointments, his body can't keep.

I burn my candle at both ends
It scarce can last the night
But oh my foes and oh my friends
It makes a lovely light.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

There's an absence of actual doers. We have the deciders.

--- Steve Elrod, VP Scientific Affairs, TAP Pharmaceutical Products, a virtual drug company, quoted in feature on Drug Discovery in New Scientist, 6 Aug 2005, p. 57

The company outsources al preclinical bench-level work - including the discovery of new molecules. Elrod's also quoted as saying, "We have the competency, but not the capacity."
Country music is three chords and the truth

--- "I fall to pieces" songwriter Harlan Howard, cited by Nashville songwriter Ben Bowling in The rise of 'redneck' stirs up country music, Patrik Jonsson, Christian Science Monitor, 12 Oct 2005

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Now I finally know what we are going to do with all those cycles

--- science writer Fred Hapgood, in a mail exchange with Edward Castronova, cited by Castronova in Synthetic Worlds: The business and culture of online games (2005) p. 279
How ironic that those who devote many hours to MMPORGs are considered social misfits. Maybe the truth is that contemporary society has become so misfitted itself that anyone who wants to interact with others must pay money to enter an alternative society that has been constructed for the specific purpose of encouraging teamwork among strangers.

--- Edward Castronova, Synthetic Worlds: The business and culture of online games
(2005) p. 274

Monday, April 03, 2006

Securities analysts believe that companies make money. Companies make shoes!

--- Peter Drucker, in Brent Schlender, 'Peter Drucker Takes the Long View: An Interview', Fortune, Sep 28 1998, cited in Carlota Perez, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital p. 124

Sunday, April 02, 2006

New media don't succeed because they're like the old media, only better: they succeed because they're worse than the old media at the stuff the old media is good at, and better at the stuff the old media are bad at.

--- Cory Doctorow, Microsoft Research DRM talk, June 17, 2004

Saturday, April 01, 2006

No one will sue you for patent infringement till you have money, and once you have money, people will sue you whether they have grounds to or not.

--- Paul Graham, March 2006, Are software patents evil?, an essay is derived from a talk at Google

Another one from this story: "Things always seem intangible when you don't understand them."

Monday, March 27, 2006

The easiest thing for a reader to do is to quit reading.

--- Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Gartner, quoted by Roy Peter Clark in Writing Tool #23: Place Gold Coins Along the Path.

Friday, March 03, 2006

[It] is becoming increasingly clear that to understand living systems in any deep sense, we must come to see them not materialistically, as machines, but as (stable) complex, dynamic organization.

--- Carl Woese, A new biology for a new century (Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews, vol 68, p 173), quoted by Freeman Dyson in Make me a hipporoo, new Scientist, 11 February 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It's not that DOD flunks audits, it's that DOD's books cannot be audited. DOD aspires for the position where it flunks an audit.

--- Winslow T. Wheeler of the Center for Defense Information, quoted in The Pentagon's Broken Book-keeping, Defense Industry Daily, 28 Feb 2006.

From the DID piece:

For instance, the DoD has about 5.2 million inventory items, compared with 11,000 at Wal-Mart or 50,000 at Home Depot stores. Now multiply that by the fact that the same item may have several different order codes in different DoD departments, which do not use the same format. The DoD also has $1.3 trillion in assets (Wal-Mart: $120 billion) and $1.9 trillion in liabilities (Wal-Mart: $20 billion).

Which means their problems may continue for some time. To add to the difficulties involved, the Pentagon only began putting income statements together in the 1990s; before that, it had never needed to put a value on anything. Some believe that overhang will cripple any "clean audit efforts," which stood at 16% of assets and 49% of its liabilities as of June 2005.

... The Raleigh-Durham News & Observer reports that the US Defense Department now hopes to settle the balance sheet on 47% of assets and 49% of liabilities by 2007.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

[S]earch engines are [] like a TV camera crew let loose in the middle of a crowd of rowdy fans after a game. Seeing the camera, everyone acts boorishly and jostles to get in front. The act of observing something changes it.

--- Lee Gomes, Our Columnist Creates Web 'Original Content' But Is in for a Surprise, Wall Street Journal, 1 Mar 2006

Quote in context:
My beef, actually, is with the search engines and the economics of the modern Web. Google, for example, says its mission is 'to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful.' The way that's written, one thinks perhaps of a satellite orbiting high above the earth, capturing all its information but interfering with nothing. In fact, search engines are more like a TV camera crew let loose in the middle of a crowd of rowdy fans after a game. Seeing the camera, everyone acts boorishly and jostles to get in front. The act of observing something changes it. Which is what search engines are causing to happen to much of the world's 'information.' Legitimate information ... risks being crowded out by junky, spammy imitations. Nothing very useful about that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Within five years, half of media will be created by non-professionals

--- Matt Corwine, writer, PR consultant, music critic, record producer, Web designer, DJ and lecturer; comments over coffee at Avante in Capitol Hill, 23 Feb 2006

Some more nuggets from the same meeting:
[I’m] selling things that can’t be digitized

Smart people treat recordings as a marketing expense

The past one hundred years is sort of a blip as far as [the structure of the] music [industry] is concerned

Dan Gillmor failed with Bayosphere because he was more interested in changing the news business than doing the news

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.

--- common paraphrase of Lao Tse, Tao Te Ching Chapter 48
Linguistics is arguably the most hotly contested property in the academic realm. It is soaked with the blood of poets, theologians, philosophers, philologists, psychologists, biologists, and neurologists, along with whatever blood can be got out of grammarians.

--- Russ Rymer, cited by Fauconnier and Turner, Ch. 17, The Way We Think (2002); according to wikipedia, published in Annals of Science in "The New Yorker", 13th April 1992

Saturday, January 28, 2006

[It] seems increasingly likely that the constants of nature are more like the temperature of the Earth - properties of our local environment that vary from place to place.

--- Leonard Susskind, physicist

Source: Because we're here, Interview with Leonard Susskind, New Scientist 17 Dec 2005. Quote in context:

Q. Steven Weinberg recently said that this is one of the great sea changes in fundamental science since Einstein, that it changes the nature of science itself. Is it such a radical change?

A. In a way it is very radical but in another way it isn't. The great ambition of physicists like myself was to explain why the laws of nature are just what they are. Why is the proton just about 1800 times heavier than the electron? Why do neutrinos exist? The great hope was that some deep mathematical principle would determine all the constants of nature, like Newton's constant. But it seems increasingly likely that the constants of nature are more like the temperature of the Earth - properties of our local environment that vary from place to place. Like the temperature, many of the constants have to be just so if intelligent life is to exist. So we live where life is possible.

For some physicists this idea is an incredible disappointment. Personally, I don't see it that way. I find it exciting to think that the universe may be much bigger, richer and full of variety than we ever expected. And it doesn't seem so incredibly philosophically radical to think that some things may be environmental.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We only confess our little faults to persuade people that we have no big ones

--- Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld, a seventeenth-century French writer and moralist

From Inside Influence Jan 2006, which discusses which faults to confess.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Quantum theory isn't a description of physical reality. All it does is provide correct answers to meaningful questions about experiments.

--- The late physicist Asher Peres

cited by Mark Buchanan in "Discovering the true nature of reality", New Scientist, 18 Jun 2005, p 34

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.

--- Umberto Eco, quoted in the Writer's Almanac, 5 January 2006