Sunday, December 22, 2013

I am in a state of excessive indignation about everything, from which I deduce old age and hardening of the arteries

--- Isaiah Berlin, letter to Mary McCarthy in 1964 when he was aged fifty-five, quoted in "Learning a Lot About Isaiah Berlin" by John Banville, a review of Building: Letters 1960–1975 by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy and Mark Pottle

Monday, December 02, 2013

He who gives food, gives longevity, pleasant complexion, happiness, stamina and intelligence

--- Gotama Buddha, Bhojana Sutta, Panchaka Nipata, The Fives,  Anguttara Nikaya, cited in the liturgy (pdf) of Hunger No More: An Interfaith Convocation of Prayer and Commitment, June 5, 2005, Washington National Cathedral.

Quote as cited:
Monks, he who gives food, gives longevity, pleasant complexion, happiness,
stamina and intelligence
.
The liturgy (pdf) includes a long list of "National Religious Leadership Statements on Hunger and Poverty," including this by Bhante M. Dhammasiri, President, Buddhist Vihara, Washington, DC:
Buddhism advocates generosity as one of the main virtues accumulated even by the potential
Buddha. Feeding poor people is one of the duties of a Buddhist. One who is capable of earning
more with ethical means shares his/her surplus with others. Food, clothing, shelter and medicine are four essentials that a person needs. Buddhism emphasizes the fact that everybody lives on food and that is the main requisite. The Buddhist generosity is culminated when one sacrifices his/her own life for the benefit of others. According to Buddhism, before asking the person to follow the teachings of the Buddha, one should check whether the person had enough to eat because the hungry cannot comprehend the essence of the teachings. The Buddha mentioned that hunger is the worst disease.
One possible source of the reference to not being hungry before receiving teaching may be the story cited in  Eat To Live, Not Live To Eat, in which the Buddha ensured that a poor man had been fed before starting his teaching, keeping many others waiting in the process.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The gods have become diseases

--- C G Jung, “Commentary on ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower,’” Collected Works 13, para. 54, cited by  James Hollis in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up (2005), p. 161; see Alchemical Studies (Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 13)  p. 37

Quote in context:
We think we can congratulate ourselves on having already reached such a pinnacle of clarity, imagining that we have left all these phantasmal gods far behind. But what we have left behind are only verbal specters, not the psychic facts that were responsible for the birth of the gods. We are still as much possessed today by autonomous psychic contents as if they were Olympians. Today they are called phobias, obsessions, and so forth; in a word, neurotic symptoms. The gods have become diseases; Zeus no longer  rules Olympus but rather the solar plexus, and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting room, or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics on the world. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a big problem.

--- Philo of Alexandria, according to James Hollis in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up (2005), p. 231

Hollis's citation in context:
If we look hard enough, we will find anxiety, or its management, at the roots of so much we do. It is disconcerting to realize this fact, but in recognition of the ubiquity of anxiety in our lives and in those around us we may feel greater compassion for ourselves and for each other. Philo of Alexandria is reported to have said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is carrying a big problem.” If we can accept that about ourselves and each other, accept the normality of anxiety, seek the roots of identifiable fears in that anxiety, then simply do the best that we can and forgive the rest, we may at last become less anxious.
Quote Investigator contests the attribution to Philo (or, as often, to Plato).

Rhodes scholars are young men with a promising future hidden somewhere in their past

--- E. T. Williams, Warden of Rhodes House, quoted by Stephen Bergman in his essay "Resistance and the Balliol Revolution: What we dare to do together", The American Oxonian, vol. 99, no. 4, Fall 2012, p. 287

Quote in context:
The Warden of Rhodes House, E. T. Williams, at morning "sherries" in his lair that laid you out wll into the afternoon, soon instilled in us the two rules of the American scholars' trajectory at Oxford. First: "Rhodes scholars are young men with a promising future hidden somewhere in their past"; second: "you Americans spend your first year winding down, and your second year winding back up."

Friday, October 18, 2013

he watched himself as he worked, just to see where his mind would lead him

--- Adrian Searle, about Paul Klee, in Guardian review "Paul Klee at Tate Modern: More! More! More!", 14 October 2013

Quote in context:
I often feel, looking at Klee, that he watched himself as he worked, just to see where his mind would lead him. Working in a spirit both of rigorous formal enquiry and childlike impetuousness and spontaneity, he kept himself guessing as well as us.
Another wonderful passage caught Madelaine Maior's eye:
You need to sidle up to things, let your eye snag on a detail, get sucked in then turn away again, allowing yourself to look while your mind is elsewhere. Being inattentive is as important as close inspection. An art as generative and fecund as Klee's is particularly susceptible to this kind of looking. Just follow your eye.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beware of people bearing growth percentages and a love of mobile connectivity

--- Chris Duckett, in a ZDNet story Mobile data continues growth, fixed line remains download king October 8, 2013

Quote in context:
For proponents of mobile data, the numbers in the latest Internet Activity report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) tell quite a story — over the 12 months until June 2013, the amount of data downloaded on mobile devices almost doubled. In the year from December 2011 to December 2012, the amount of data increased from 5,000TB to 13,703TB.
Taking these numbers on their own and trumpeting 12-month growth percentages of 169 percent, 174 percent, and 97 percent sounds mighty impressive. Without any sort of wider context, it's easy to see how the ill-informed could fantasise of a world where mobile data trumps existing infrastructure to become the primary and best way to deliver data to the masses.
...
Beware of people bearing growth percentages and a love of mobile connectivity, for only half the picture will often be revealed.
...
 Mobile data may be increasing at a rapid rate, but it is yet to reach one-fifth of the data downloaded on fixed lines in December 2009. By contrast, fixed-line downloads have grown by five and a half times since the end of 2009.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The plural of anecdote is (not?) data

--- Raymond Wolfinger, per email to Fred Shapiro, editor of the Yale Dictionary of Quotations, cited in David Smith, "The plural of anecdote is data, after all" (2011)
I [Shapiro] e-mailed Wolfinger last year and got the following response from him:
"I said 'The plural of anecdote is data' some time in the 1969-70 academic year while teaching a graduate seminar at Stanford. The occasion was a student's dismissal of a simple factual statement -- by another student or me -- as a mere anecdote. The quotation was my rejoinder. Since then I have missed few opportunities to quote myself. The only appearance in print that I can remember is Nelson Polsby's accurate quotation and attribution in an article in PS: Political Science and Politics in 1993; I believe it was in the first issue of the year."
I was led to this quote by a remark of Martin Weiss during his paper presentation at TPRC 2013 on Saturday. It led me to riff during my paper presentation that inside the Beltway, the plural of anecdotes is truth.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Aid is not a solution to poverty; it is a tool that people and governments can use to create solutions to poverty

--- Oxfam America, Introduction to the report, The politics of partnership: How donors manage risk while letting recipients lead their own development, December 2011

In context:
No amount of aid will “deliver” development. Aid is not a solution to poverty; it is a tool that people and governments can use to create solutions to poverty. Aid is ultimately useful to the extent that recipient citizens and governments can use it effectively. Increased efforts by donors to maintain tight control over aid often end up making aid less useful to recipients, and the converse also is true. Genuine partnerships with people and their governments makes aid more effective over the long term. This reality is well known to donors and recipients alike, yet donors consistently find it politically difficult to trust recipients to share in the design and allocation of aid.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

No one lies as much as the indignant do

--- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Part Two, The free spirit, section 27, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche (Modern Library Classics), 2000, transl. William Kaufman, p. 229

In context:
Cynicism is the only form in which base souls approach honesty; and the higher man must listen closely to every coarse or subtle cynicism, and congratulate himself when a clown without shame or a scientific satyr speaks out precisely in front of him.
There are even cases where enchantment mixes with the dis gust—namely, where by a freak of nature genius is tied to some such indiscreet billygoat and ape, as in the case of the AbbĂ© Galiani, the profoundest, most clear-sighted, and perhaps also filthiest man of his century—he was far profounder than Voltaire and consequently also a good deal more taciturn. It happens more frequently, as has been hinted, that a scientific head is placed on an ape’s body, a subtle exceptional understanding in a base soul, an occurrence by no means rare, especially among doctors and physiologists of morality. And whenever anyone speaks without bitterness, quite innocently, of man as a belly with two requirements, and a head with one; whenever anyone sees, seeks, and wants to see only hunger, sexual lust, and vanity as the real and only motives of human actions; in short, when anyone speaks “badly”— and not even “wickedly”—of man, the lover of knowledge should listen subtly and diligently; he should altogether have an open ear wherever people talk without indignation. For the indignant and whoever perpetually tears and lacerates with his own teeth himself (or as a Substitute, the world, or God, or society) may indeed, morally speaking, stand higher than the laughing and self-satisfied satyr, but in every other sense they are a more ordinary, more in different, and less instructive case. And no one lies as much as the indignant do.

Living—is that not precisely wanting to be other than this nature?

--- Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Part One, On the prejudices of the philosophers, section 9, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche (Modern Library Classics), 2000, transl. William Kaufman, p. 205

Quote:
“According to nature” you want to live? O you noble Stoics, what deceptive words these are! Imagine a being like nature, wasteful beyond measure, indifferent beyond measure, without purposes and consideration, without mercy and justice, fertile and desolate and uncertain at the same time; imagine indifference it self as a power—how could you live according to this indifference? Living—is that not precisely wanting to be other than this nature? Is not living—estimating, preferring, being unjust, being limited, wanting to be different? And supposing your imperative “live according to nature” meant at bottom as much as “live according to life”—how could you not do that? Why make a principle of what you yourselves are and must be?

Monday, May 27, 2013

If you’re doing research and you know exactly what you’re gonna find, you’re not doing research, you’re doing marketing

--- Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals of Improbable Research and founder of the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony, during a TEDx CERN Talk about how all research — real research, that is — is improbable.

See video at time code 2:15 onwards

All research is improbable. All research is going to turn up some things you really didn’t expect. If you’re doing research and you know exactly what you’re gonna find, you’re not doing research, you’re doing marketing.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We don’t sit to get better. We sit to be with life as it is.

--- Seth Segall, closing line in the blog post, Good Sitting, Bad Sitting, November 23, 2012

From the post:
William and Matthew are at the start of their Zen journey. They’re beginning to learn that sitting isn’t about perfect concentration and bliss, but about seeing the mind as it is — a mirror that reflects everything — including the energies of holidays and far-off conflicts. Thoughts about these ongoing events rise and stir the emotions. The goal is not the elimination of these thoughts and emotions, but developing our capacity to observe them in a kind and interested way. If all that we can observe is how helplessly caught up we are in them — how our minds have a mind of their own — then that, in and of itself, is the beginning of wisdom. We are not the masters of our own house, and learning to work skillfully with the energies at play is the work of a lifetime.
 ...
Sitting is a strange process. In the beginning, it’s hard to grasp what it’s all about. Later on, it doesn’t get much easier. The only thing that’s clear is “just do it.” Whether the sitting is “good” or “bad,” just do it. You never get any better at it. Not really. But this whole idea of “getting better” is part of the problem, the endless self-improvement and self-manipulation game.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Meditation is a way to be narcissistic without hurting anyone

--- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), in the section "Ethics"

A sobering thought for those of us with a sitting practice. The glass-half-full interpretation is that since we're all narcissistic, meditation offers a safe way to indulge this vice.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

It is easier to fast than diet

--- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), in the section "The Sacred and the Profane"

In context:
One categorical: it is easier to fast than diet. You cannot be "slightly" kosher or halal by only eating a small portion of ham.

The "slightly kosher" coda actually detracts from the aphorism; it's just a vanilla oxymoron, like "partly pregnant."

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It is as difficult to change someone’s opinions as it is to change his tastes

--- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms (2010), in the section "Chance, Success, Happiness and Stoicism"

A skeptical counterpoint to Popper's optimism in saying "I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth" (The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume II, The high tide of prophecy: Hegel, Marx and the Aftermath, fifth edition (revised) 1996, Princeton University Press, first paperback printing 1971; chapter 24, section I, p. 225)

Taleb provides another perspective later on in the section on "Ethics":
You can only convince people who think they can benefit from being convinced.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

What could be more humbling to a fact then to learn that it has been selected for our attention by a metaphor, an image, or a fiction?

--- law professor Pierre Schlag, in blog post Facts (The), 28 January 2013

Lots of good stuff - read the whole post. The quote in context:
Facts are frequently presented as “the-real-story” or “the bottom line.” One is no doubt supposed to conclude from this that “facts are facts”—that they are the veritable bedrock of truth. But notice that this doesn’t make any sense. Notice that the “bottom line” is an accounting metaphor. . . . Now, it’s not that these metaphors, images or fictions turn facts into non-facts. But still, I ask you: what could be more humbling to a fact then to learn that it has been selected for our attention by a metaphor, an image, or a fiction?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

"Since its inception radio communication has been plagued by a shortage of space for ever-increasing numbers of stations and new services"

--- Radio spectrum conservation; a program of conservation based on present uses and future needs. A report of the Joint Technical Advisory Committee, IRE-RTMA. New York, McGraw-Hill, 1952. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005756597, quoted (slightly tweaked) by Ed Richards in his speech "Spectrum in an age of innovation", 29 November 2011

Quote in context, the opening lines of the Preface of the report:
The subject of this volume is one of far-reaching importance to society at large. Since its inception radio communication has been plagued by a shortage of space for ever-increasing numbers of stations and new services, from ship-to-shore “wireless” in 1902 to television in 1952. As new regions of the radio spectrum have been explored and opened to practical operations, commerce and industry have found more than enough new uses to crowd them.