Monday, April 6, 2020

The old Venice of song and story

I began to feel that the old Venice of song and story had departed forever. But I was too hasty.

In a few minutes we swept gracefully out into the Grand Canal, and under the mellow moonlight the Venice of poetry and romance stood revealed. Right from the water's edge rose long lines of stately palaces of marble; gondolas were gliding swiftly hither and thither and disappearing suddenly through unsuspected gates and alleys; ponderous stone bridges threw their shadows athwart the glittering waves.

There was life and motion everywhere, and yet everywhere there was a hush, a stealthy sort of stillness, that was suggestive of secret enterprises of bravoes and of lovers; and clad half in moonbeams and half in mysterious shadows, the grim old mansions of the Republic seemed to have an expression about them of having an eye out for just such enterprises as these at that same moment.

Music came floating over the waters—Venice was complete.

Friday, April 3, 2020

The uniqueness of online chat

The chat format’s astonishing durability signals the true birth of a new form of communication.

Chat is the perfect intersection of written and informal language.

Let’s consider what we know about these formats.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

12 Tips for Healthy Sleep

1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. As creatures of habit, people have a hard time adjusting to changes in sleep patterns. Sleeping later on weekends won’t fully make up for a lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. Set an alarm for bedtime. Often we set an alarm for when it’s time to wake up but fail to do so for when it’s time to go to sleep. If there is only one piece of advice you remember and take from these twelve tips, this should be it.

2. Exercise is great, but not too late in the day. Try to exercise at least thirty minutes on most days but not later than two to three hours before your bedtime.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Why innovations fail

A classic paper by John Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School, stipulates that “many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

Gourville claims that for new entrants to stand a chance, they can’t just be better, they must be nine times better.

Why such a high bar?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

When to have fields of life all plowed

A man thirty years old, I said to myself, should have his fields of life all ploughed, and his planting well done; for after that it is summer-time, with space scarce enough to ripen his sowing.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, March 30, 2020

A humbled Venice

This Venice, which was a haughty, invincible, magnificent Republic for nearly fourteen hundred years; whose armies compelled the world's applause whenever and wherever they battled; whose navies well nigh held dominion of the seas, and whose merchant fleets whitened the remotest oceans with their sails and loaded these piers with the products of every clime, is fallen a prey to poverty, neglect and melancholy decay.

Six hundred years ago, Venice was the Autocrat of Commerce; her mart was the great commercial centre, the distributing-house from whence the enormous trade of the Orient was spread abroad over the Western world.

Friday, March 27, 2020

When people need timing calibration

If you’ve ever found yourself unable to get a word in edgewise, or doing all the talking around someone frustratingly taciturn, it’s probably because your cultural timings are ever so slightly miscalibrated for each other, points out the linguist Deborah Tannen.
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch


It's better to give people more time and space to talk than less. If the silence feels awkward, that amount of time may be just what the other person needs in order to feel comfortable talking.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Teen sleep schedules

Recognizing the importance of deep NREM sleep in teenagers has been instrumental to our understanding of healthy development, but it has also offered clues as to what happens when things go wrong in the context of abnormal development.

Many of the major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression, and ADHD are now considered disorders of abnormal development, since they commonly emerge during childhood and adolescence. …schizophrenia deserves special mention at this juncture.

Several studies have tracked neural development using brain scans every couple of months in hundreds of young teenagers as they make their way through adolescence. A proportion of these individuals went on to develop schizophrenia in their late teenage years and early adulthood. Those individuals who developed schizophrenia had an abnormal pattern of brain maturation that was associated with synaptic pruning, especially in the frontal lobe regions where rational, logical thoughts are controlled—the inability to do so being a major symptom of schizophrenia.

In a separate series of studies, we have also observed that in young individuals who are at high risk of developing schizophrenia, and in teenagers and young adults with schizophrenia, there is a two-to threefold reduction in deep NREM sleep. Furthermore, the electrical brainwaves of NREM sleep are not normal in their shape or number in the affected individuals.

Faulty pruning of brain connections in schizophrenia caused by sleep abnormalities is now one of the most active and exciting areas of investigation in psychiatric illness.

Adolescents face two other harmful challenges in their struggle to obtain sufficient sleep as their brains continue to develop.

The first is a change in their circadian rhythm. The second is early school start times. …the complications of early school start times are inextricably linked with the first issue—a shift in circadian rhythm.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Unborn world

Have you ever entered a world of seemingly limitless opportunity? That's what it was like. It was so exciting. Things were developing so fast. There was so much freedom to explore, test limits. One could hear all kinds of different sounds.

For a while it seemed as if there wasn't even an awareness of all that was going on in the world and the new entrances to be made in preparation. Eventually hints appeared here and there that more opportunity and development was on the way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A terrible realization

There are realizations which come to us all painfully; mostly, however, such as pertain to ourselves; that we are growing old, for instance; and, more terrible, that we must die.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace


That, however, need not be the end. There is a worse realization still, that a man falls short of the righteousness and righteous requirement of God. There is salvation available from the consequences of that deficiency.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Sociable on short acquaintance

We voyaged by steamer down the Lago di Lecco, through wild mountain scenery, and by hamlets and villas, and disembarked at the town of Lecco.

They said it was two hours, by carriage to the ancient city of Bergamo, and that we would arrive there in good season for the railway train.

We got an open barouche and a wild, boisterous driver, and set out. It was delightful. We had a fast team and a perfectly smooth road.

How to defrost a To Do list

Contrary to the opinion of some, being thrown off work that requires in-person interaction is not limited to blue collar work, and certainly not racially based. It can hit a lot of people, all while defying expectations, bias, and prejudice along the way. Plenty of people don't want work that can be done from home.

Nonetheless, as many have become homebound, we would do well to do what we can to find work and other things that can be done from home. Don't want on Congress to meet your needs.

For some of us, there have been several things we've wanted to do from home for some time. If we knew we could turn them into self-sufficient work from home we would, but our confidence level has not been there to fully focus on trying to make that option work.

Now, given circumstances beyond our control or choosing, we're at home with a golden opportunity to focus on those things we've wanted to get done, maybe for years. Time to put the news away for part of the day and get to work.

The question then becomes, Where to begin? The To Do list has a lot of things on it. Some of them are quite large, and need some extended focus time. They've been frozen there for a long time. Which ones do we take on first?

I took a few steps today that I found helpful in this regard.

Friday, March 20, 2020

When a word insufficiently loses meaning

If you didn’t encounter “dear” enough for its meaning to wash out, and the post-letter-writing generations may not have, it feels oddly like calling your boss or your professor your darling.

Even if individual people adopt “dear” for older correspondents, as I did, it’s doomed in the long run if people aren’t using it among their peers, as I would never, never do.

A message for Americans who are scared

At the White House press briefing on the coronavirus today, reporters asked, “Do you have a message for Americans who are scared?” Multiple times, multiple reporters, asking multiple people that same question.

In some ways an answer had already been given in that briefing. The President and his team come before the public each day with the information they have on how they're handling the crisis. And yet the fear persists as the crisis continues.

Congress is working on phase three of legislation to address the needs of the medical industry and other large sectors of the economy directly and severely affected by the coronavirus, and also to provide a cash infusion for people out of work and with suddenly diminished income, this writer included.

People's fears are two-fold. They fear the virus itself, and they fear its economic consequences.

There's a lot of uncertainty. Things upon which many relied have now become uncertain, at all levels with all magnitudes. A sense of dependency has invaded every corner across the land. Thank you, Captain Obvious, right?

There are some things not much said publicly yet which are of utmost relevance to this situation—a message every American needs to hear.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The origins of sleep-deprived residency

All of us know that nurses and doctors work long, consecutive hours, and none more so than doctors during their resident training years. Few people, however, know why. Why did we ever force doctors to learn their profession in this exhausting, sleepless way?

The answer originates with the esteemed physician William Stewart Halsted, MD, who was also a helpless drug addict.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lincoln vs. the trend of the 19th century

Exactly what gives its real dignity to the figure of Lincoln is that he stands invoking a primitive first principle of the age of innocence, and holding up the tables of an ancient law, against the trend of the nineteenth century; repeating, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator, etc.,'

to a generation that was more and more disposed to say something like this: 'We hold these truths to be probable enough for pragmatists; that all things looking like men were evolved somehow, being endowed by heredity and environment with no equal rights, but very unequal wrongs,' and so on.

I do not believe that creed, left to itself, would ever have founded a state; and I am pretty certain that, left to itself, it would never have overthrown a slave state.
Source: What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The readiness of power

Power, you know, is a fretful thing, and hath its wings always spread for flight.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, March 16, 2020

The magnification of Lake Tahoe

That is all very well, except the “clear” part of the lake. It certainly is clearer than a great many lakes, but how dull its waters are compared with the wonderful transparence of Lake Tahoe!

I speak of the north shore of Tahoe, where one can count the scales on a trout at a depth of a hundred and eighty feet.

I have tried to get this statement off at par here, but with no success; so I have been obliged to negotiate it at fifty percent discount.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The origin of 'hello'

The greetings popular in the 1800s were based on knowing who you were addressing and when you were addressing them: “Good morning, children.” “Good afternoon, Doctor.”

But when you pick up a ringing telephone, you have no idea who’s calling (during the many decades before caller ID), and you can’t even be sure whether you share a time of day with them.

The teleconnected world desperately needed a neutral option.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Explaining sleep apathy

Society’s apathy toward sleep has, in part, been caused by the historic failure of science to explain why we need it.

Sleep remained one of the last great biological mysteries. All of the mighty problem-solving methods in science—genetics, molecular biology, and high-powered digital technology—have been unable to unlock the stubborn vault of sleep. Minds of the most stringent kind, including Nobel Prize–winner Francis Crick, who deduced the twisted-ladder structure of DNA, famed Roman educator and rhetorician Quintilian, and even Sigmund Freud had all tried their hand at deciphering sleep’s enigmatic code, all in vain.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The American mood

In America there are no moods, or there is only one mood.

It is the same whether it is called hustle or uplift; whether we regard it as the heroic love of comrades or the last hysteria of the herd instinct.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The mind's multitude of sensitivities

The smallest bird cannot light upon the greatest tree without sending a shock to its most distant fibre; every mind is at times no less sensitive to the most trifling words.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, March 9, 2020

The jolliest laughter that could be imagined

We took an open barouche and drove two miles out of Milan to “see ze echo,” as the guide expressed it. The road was smooth, it was bordered by trees, fields, and grassy meadows, and the soft air was filled with the odor of flowers.

Troops of picturesque peasant girls, coming from work, hooted at us, shouted at us, made all manner of game of us, and entirely delighted me. My long-cherished judgment was confirmed. I always did think those frowsy, romantic, unwashed peasant girls I had read so much about in poetry were a glaring fraud.

We enjoyed our jaunt. It was an exhilarating relief from tiresome sight-seeing.

We distressed ourselves very little about the astonishing echo the guide talked so much about. We were growing accustomed to encomiums on wonders that too often proved no wonders at all.

And so we were most happily disappointed to find in the sequel that the guide had even failed to rise to the magnitude of his subject.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Why greetings can mean less than their words

When I was in high school, I had a linguistic game I used to play on my unsuspecting schoolmates.

Moving through the hallways between classes, we’d normally call out to the people we saw every day, “Hi, how’s it going?” or “Hey, what’s up?”

But I practiced giving the opposite response without skipping a beat. To “What’s up?” I’d answer, “Good, how’re you?” while to “How’s it going?” I’d say, “Not much, what’s up with you?”

What surprised and delighted me every time is that people never seemed to notice.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Why we get sleepy

At this very moment, a chemical called adenosine is building up in your brain.

It will continue to increase in concentration with every waking minute that elapses. The longer you are awake, the more adenosine will accumulate.

Think of adenosine as a chemical barometer that continuously registers the amount of elapsed time since you woke up this morning.

One consequence of increasing adenosine in the brain is an increasing desire to sleep. This is known as sleep pressure, and it is the second force that will determine when you feel sleepy, and thus should go to bed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Because we are different

Nations can love each other as men and women love each other, not because they are alike but because they are different.
Source: What I Saw in America by G. K. Chesterton

When I was in college, one time in chapel I heard Dr. Bill Brown say, “We're not equal because we're the same; we're equal because we're different.”

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The easiest way to be disliked

As a rule, there is no surer way to the dislike of men than to behave well where they have behaved badly.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, March 2, 2020

Images pretend to reveal the heart

Wherever you find a Raphael, a Rubens, a Michelangelo, a Carracci, or a da Vinci (and we see them every day,) you find artists copying them, and the copies are always the handsomest. Maybe the originals were handsome when they were new, but they are not now.

The colors are dimmed with age; the countenances are scaled and marred, and nearly all expression is gone from them; the hair is a dead blur upon the wall, and there is no life in the eyes. Only the attitudes are certain. …

Friday, February 28, 2020

What storytellers do

Embodiment and projecting a virtual body may sound dangerously space-age—holograms!—but in many ways, embodiment is very old. Older than writing, as old as stories, perhaps as old as language itself.

What does a storyteller do other than use their voice and body to project characters and feelings into the minds of their listeners?

What is language other than a tool for transmitting new mental representations of the world into the minds of other people?
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Three approaches to work

More recent research finds that most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.

If you see your work as a job, you do it only for the money, you look at the clock frequently while dreaming about the weekend ahead, and you probably pursue hobbies, which satisfy your effectance needs more thoroughly than does your work.

If you see your work as a career, you have larger goals of advancement, promotion, and prestige. The pursuit of these goals often energizes you, and you sometimes take work home with you because you want to get the job done properly.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The first mark of a childlike spirit

The devil can quote Scripture for his purpose; and the text of Scripture which he now most commonly quotes is, 'The kingdom of heaven is within you.'

That text has been the stay and support of more Pharisees and prigs and self-righteous spiritual bullies than all the dogmas in creation; it has served to identify self-satisfaction with the peace that passes all understanding.

And the text to be quoted in answer to it is that which declares that no man can receive the kingdom except as a little child.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The servants of hope

Hope deals with the future; now and the past are but servants that wait on her with impulse and suggestive circumstance.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, February 24, 2020

The main charm of life in Europe

Afterward we walked up and down one of the most popular streets for some time, enjoying other people's comfort and wishing we could export some of it to our restless, driving, vitality-consuming marts at home. Just in this one matter lies the main charm of life in Europe—comfort.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Billy Graham’s greatest surprise in life

“The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.”
Billy Graham

Billy Graham died on the birthday of one of my brothers 2 years ago.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

600 Days; new personal time paradigm

I'm 60% of the way toward my goal of 1,000 days of writing.

Popular posts from the last 100 days:
Thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign
Safely onto land
A great love of measurement
For the Arab

Given the milestone, it's fitting to write about time today.

I've used a number of time tracking apps off and on over the years. The first one I used consistently was Eternity. I later switched to Now Then. It was simpler to start and stop. Reporting data out is a little harder, but it works. I still use Now Then for logging billable hours.

For general use, I've recently started using BlockyTime. It follows a principle I used when keeping up my own system of time management: only keeping time to the nearest 0.5 or 0.25 hours. Through it's difficult translation it earnestly tries to make the case that over time, things average out and more granular detail of time intervals is not needed. Based on my prior experience, I was already convinced the moment I saw how it operated.

It didn't take much time of using the free version to be sold on the paid version. It's another feature, however, that I really find compelling that sets this app apart from others.

Two kinds of diversity

The word “diversity” took on its current role in American discourse only after a 1978 Supreme Court ruling (U.C. Regents v. Bakke) that the use of racial preferences to achieve racial quotas at universities was unconstitutional, but that it was permissible to use racial preferences to increase diversity in the student body.

Since then, diversity has been widely celebrated, on bumper stickers, in campus diversity days, and in advertisements. For many liberals, diversity has become an unquestioned good—like justice, freedom, and happiness, the more diversity, the better.

My research on morality, however, spurred me to question it. Given how easy it is to divide people into hostile groups based on trivial differences, I wondered whether celebrating diversity might also encourage division, whereas celebrating commonality would help people form cohesive groups and communities.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Reaching admiration

If I were asked for a single symbolic figure summing up the whole of what seems eccentric and interesting about America to an Englishman, I should be satisfied to select that one lady who complained of Mrs. Asquith's lecture and wanted her money back.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

The hidden comfort in direction

People, generally, are not aware of the ease of mind there is in knowing where they are, and where they are going.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, February 17, 2020

Brave where all others were cowards

Now we will descend into the crypt, under the grand altar of Milan Cathedral, and receive an impressive sermon from lips that have been silent and hands that have been gestureless for three hundred years.

The priest stopped in a small dungeon and held up his candle. This was the last resting-place of a good man, a warm-hearted, unselfish man; a man whose whole life was given to succoring the poor, encouraging the faint-hearted, visiting the sick; in relieving distress, whenever and wherever he found it. His heart, his hand, and his purse were always open.

With his story in one's mind he can almost see his benignant countenance moving calmly among the haggard faces of Milan in the days when the plague swept the city, brave where all others were cowards, full of compassion where pity had been crushed out of all other breasts by the instinct of self-preservation gone mad with terror, cheering all, praying with all, helping all, with hand and brain and purse, at a time when parents forsook their children, the friend deserted the friend, and the brother turned away from the sister while her pleadings were still wailing in his ears.

This was good St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop of Milan.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Digitally hanging out

Beyond single responses, sending messages back and forth can be a way of digitally hanging out: even when your messages have barely any textual meaning, they convey an important subtext: “I want to be talking with you.”

Thursday, February 13, 2020

From character to personality

In his provocative book The Death of Character, Hunter traces out how America lost its older ideas about virtue and character.

Before the Industrial Revolution, Americans honored the virtues of “producers”—hard work, self-restraint, sacrifice for the future, and sacrifice for the common good.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Loving characters

It is often said that we learn to love the characters in romances as if they were characters in real life.

I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What Rome defended

What Rome seized with strong hand she always defended: in return for their taxes, she gave them safety.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, February 10, 2020

Beauty no painter could represent

VERSAILLES! It is wonderfully beautiful! …

The scene thrills one like military music! …

I used to think the pictures exaggerated these distances and these dimensions beyond all reason, and that they made Versailles more beautiful than it was possible for any place in the world to be.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Emoji is fake

There’s a deeper question about the appeal of digital embodiment, though, regardless of whether it surfaces as emoji, emoticons, gifs, or another form. The facial expressions are by far the most popular, and yet there’s an important way in which they’re not like our ordinary kinds of facial expressions.

When we’re interacting with other people, we find the most trustworthy kind of facial expression to be the kind that’s given off involuntarily: the burst of laughter or sob in the throat that’s difficult to fake.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

When overcoming adversity is most useful

When people older than thirty are asked to remember the most important or vivid events of their lives, they are disproportionately likely to recall events that occurred between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

This is the age when a person’s life blooms—first love, college and intellectual growth, living and perhaps traveling independently—and it is the time when young people (at least in Western countries) make many of the choices that will define their lives.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Mastering the imagination and not the reason

The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone; especially to a wood-cut or a lithographic stone.

Modern people put their trust in pictures, especially scientific pictures, as much as the most superstitious ever put it in religious pictures.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Miles of worship

We visited the Louvre, at a time when we had no silk purchases in view, and looked at its miles of paintings by the old masters.

Some of them were beautiful, but at the same time they carried such evidences about them of the cringing spirit of those great men that we found small pleasure in examining them.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Emoji ≠ language

Why were emoji so popular, so quickly? By the time you’ve called up a linguist to answer this question, you’ve pretty much decided that the answer is “because they’re a new language.” But as the linguist being called up, I wasn’t so sure.

I was just as fascinated as anyone by emoji as a phenomenon, but linguists have a definition of what language is, and it’s very clear that emoji don’t fit in it.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Companionship > Passion

True love exists, I believe, but it is not—cannot be—passion that lasts forever.

True love, the love that undergirds strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with some added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to each other. …

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

An inversion of ancestor-worship

Democracy is reproached with saying that the majority is always right.

But progress says that the minority is always right.

Progressives are prophets; and fortunately not all the people are prophets. Thus in the atmosphere of this slowly dying sectarianism anybody who chooses to prophesy and prohibit can tyrannise over the people.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Waking to happy sights and sounds

THE SONG

“Wake not, but hear me, love!
     Adrift, adrift on slumber's sea,
     Thy spirit call to list to me.

Wake not, but hear me, love!
     A gift from Sleep, the restful king,
     All happy, happy dreams I bring.

“Wake not, but hear me, love!
     Of all the world of dreams 'tis thine
     This once to choose the most divine.

So choose, and sleep, my love!
     But ne'er again in choice be free,
     Unless, unless—thou dream'st of me.”
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

Monday, January 27, 2020

What no man can suffer

We hired a sailboat and a guide and made an excursion to one of the small islands in the harbor to visit the Castle d'If.

This ancient fortress has a melancholy history. It has been used as a prison for political offenders for two or three hundred years, and its dungeon walls are scarred with the rudely carved names of many and many a captive who fretted his life away here and left no record of himself but these sad epitaphs wrought with his own hands.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Love > power

Perfectly following a list of punctuation rules may grant me some kinds of power, but it won’t grant me love.

Love doesn’t come from a list of rules—it emerges from the spaces between us, when we pay attention to each other and care about the effect that we have on each other.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Unsettling findings about happiness

In the 1990s, the two big findings of happiness research (strong relation to genes, weak relation to environment) hit the psychological community hard, because they applied not just to happiness but to most aspects of personality.

Psychologists since Freud had shared a nearly religious devotion to the idea that personality is shaped primarily by childhood environment. This axiom was taken on faith: The evidence for it consisted almost entirely of correlations—usually small ones—between what parents did and how their children turned out, and anyone who suggested that these correlations were caused by genes was dismissed as a reductionist.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The danger of democracy

The danger of democracy is not anarchy but convention.

There is even a sort of double meaning in the word 'convention'; for it is also used for the most informal and popular sort of parliament; a parliament not summoned by any king.

The Americans come together very easily without any king; but their coming together is in every sense a convention, and even a very conventional convention.

In a democracy riot is rather the exception and respectability certainly the rule. And though a superficial sight-seer should hesitate about all such generalisations, and certainly should allow for enormous exceptions to them, he does receive a general impression of unity verging on uniformity.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The arguments against Citizens United are weak


The glory of the Greeks

The Greeks have their great glory because they were the first to set Mind above Strength. In Athens the orator and philosopher were more revered than the warrior.
Source: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace

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

Monday, January 6, 2020

Gibraltar, a lonely and enormous mass of rock

Within the hour we were fairly within the Straits of Gibraltar, the tall yellow-splotched hills of Africa on our right, with their bases veiled in a blue haze and their summits swathed in clouds—the same being according to Scripture, which says that “clouds and darkness are over the land.” The words were spoken of this particular portion of Africa, I believe.

On our left were the granite-ribbed domes of old Spain. The strait is only thirteen miles wide in its narrowest part. …

Friday, January 3, 2020

Sartalics

Two LiveJournal threads from 2010 and 2012 discussed this new use of the tilde, in contexts like “Well, isn’t that ~ special” or “Every character on that show has a ~ tragic past ~.”

Both threads were started by people asking about the meaning of this new use of the tilde that they’d been seeing, and yet both askers correctly deciphered its meaning in their original questions.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Natural group size

Human beings ought to live in groups of around 150 people, judging from the logarithm of our brain size; and sure enough, studies of hunter-gatherer groups, military units, and city dwellers’ address books suggest that 100 to 150 is the “natural” group size within which people can know just about everyone directly, by name and face, and know how each person is related to everybody else.
Source: The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A great love of measurement

I do not think the dollar is almighty in America; I fancy many things are mightier, including many ideals and some rather insane ideals. But I think it might be maintained that the dollar has another of the attributes of deity.

If it is not omnipotent it is in a sense omnipresent. Whatever Americans think about dollars, it is, I think, relatively true that they talk about dollars.

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Blog Archive

2013

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