Monday, January 20, 2020

Where few dared to be rich

There is no regular system of taxation, but when the Emperor or the Bashaw want money, they levy on some rich man, and he has to furnish the cash or go to prison.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Turning AI's opaqueness transparent

IBM experimented with adding Urban Dictionary data to its artificial intelligence system Watson, only to scrub it all out again when the computer started swearing at them.
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

I find this quote to be far more interesting than what McCulloch intended. Artificial intelligence is frequently portrayed as a “black box” into which humans have no way to directly peer. That is, computers have exceeded human at least in terms of being able to handle the data it used to come to its conclusions. Apparently there's more to the story.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Unexpected sources of life satisfaction

The young have so much more to look forward to than the elderly, yet ratings of life satisfaction actually rise slightly with age, up to age sixty-five, and, in some studies, well beyond.

People are often surprised to hear that the old are happier than the young because the old have so many more health problems, yet people adapt to most chronic health problems…

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The last medieval monarchy

All good Americans wish to fight the representatives they have chosen.

All good Englishmen wish to forget the representatives they have chosen.

This difference, deep and perhaps ineradicable in the temperaments of the two peoples, explains a thousand things in their literature and their laws.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Who am I, and what am I to be?

They to whom a boy comes asking, Who am I, and what am I to be? have need of ever so much care. Each word in answer may prove to the after-life what each finger-touch of the artist is to the clay he is modelling.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, January 13, 2020

Thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign

Tangier is the spot we have been longing for all the time.

Elsewhere we have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A linguistic trust fall

Irony is a linguistic trust fall. When I write or speak with a double meaning, I fall backwards, hoping that you’ll be there to catch me.

The risks are high: misaimed irony can gravely injure the conversation.

But the rewards are high, too: the sublime joy of feeling purely understood, the comfort of knowing someone’s on your side.

No wonder people through the ages kept trying so hard to write it.
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Marriage and happiness

A good marriage is one of the life-factors most strongly and consistently associated with happiness.

Part of this apparent benefit comes from “reverse correlation”: Happiness causes marriage.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The romance of business

Americans are very unpunctual.

That is the last thing that a critic expects who comes to condemn them for hustling and haggling and vulgar ambition. But it is almost the first fact that strikes the spectator on the spot.

The chief difference between the humdrum English business man and the hustling American business man is that the hustling American business man is always late. Of course there is a great deal of difference between coming late and coming too late.

But I noticed the fashion first in connection with my own lectures; touching which I could heartily recommend the habit of coming too late. I could easily understand a crowd of commercial Americans not coming to my lectures at all; but there was something odd about their coming in a crowd, and the crowd being expected to turn up some time after the appointed hour.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Youth, the painted shell

Youth is but the painted shell within which, continually growing, lives that wondrous thing the spirit of man, biding its moment of apparition, earlier in some than in others.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

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You don't launch a popular blog,
you build one.
Seth Godin