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World’s Dorkiest New Year’s Ambition July 11, 2010

Posted by aengus in culture, geek life, science.
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From Magic Universe by Nigel Calder:

“For a partygoer nothing beats Hogmanay out on the ice at the South Pole. That’s if you can stand the altitude, nearly 3000 m above sea level, and a temperature around -27°C. About 250 souls inhabit Amundsen-Scott base in the Antarctic summer, and they begin their celebrations on New Year’s eve by watching experts fix the geographic pole. A determined raver can then shuffle anti-clockwise around the new poll for 24 hours, celebrating the new year in every time zone in turn.”


de Tocqueville Predicted the Effects of Materialism May 25, 2010

Posted by aengus in philosophy, politics.
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Thus Tocqueville holds in focus a political story in which, as he sees it, things are likely to get better and worse at the same time. On the one hand, future democracies will probably be milder and more mediocre than aristocratic societies: there will be less brutality and brilliance, as we all drift toward a vast, undemanding median. In the book’s second volume, he warns that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny, because radical equality could lead to the materialism of an expanding bourgeoisie and to the selfishness of individualism (whereby we turn away from collective political activity toward the cultivation of our own gardens). In such conditions, we might become so enamored with “a relaxed love of present enjoyments” that we lose interest in the future and the future of our descendants, or in higher things, and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one: “It does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them, and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born.”

Sisyphus and Rabbi Tarphon May 16, 2010

Posted by aengus in life, philosophy, quotes, work.
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I was reading “Following Sisyphus, not Pandora” by Howard Gardner on Edge, and liked his summation enough to quote it here:

“I will continue to do what I can to encourage good work — in that sense, Pandoran hope remains. But I
will not look upon science, technology, or religion to preserve life. Instead, I will follow Albert Camus’
injunction, in his portrayal of another mythic figure endlessly attempting to push a rock up a hill: one
should imagine Sisyphus happy.”

It reminded me of a saying of Rabbi Tarphon, quoted by Harold Bloom, “The day is short and the work is endless; It is not for thee to finish the work, nor art thou free to desist therefrom”

To all the Sisyphuses (Syshiphi?) out there, thank you for your efforts, I pray that you’re a happy Sisyphus, and I’m sorry we probably won’t live to see the final results of our collective efforts.

Some Piquant Quotes from “Foundation” by Isaac Asimov May 3, 2010

Posted by aengus in quotes, reading, science fiction.
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“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from  doing what is right!”

“For it is the chief characteristic of the religion of science that it works and [its curses] are really deadly.”

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”



Programming for Worms March 2, 2010

Posted by aengus in Uncategorized.
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Old, but worth reading; David Gelertner on the post-dotcom Internet. I wonder how many copies “Operating Systems for Livestock” would actually sell?:

“Computing will be transformed. It’s not just that our problems are big, they are big and obvious. It’s not just that the solutions are simple, they are simple and right under our noses. It’s not just that hardware is more advanced than software; the last big operating-systems breakthrough was the Macintosh, sixteen years ago, and today’s hottest item is Linux, which is a version of Unix, which was new in 1976. Users react to the hard truth that commerical software applications tend to be badly-designed, badly-made, incomprehensible and obsolete by blaming themselves (“Computers for Morons,” “Operating Systems for Livestock”), and meanwhile, money surges through our communal imagination like beer from burst barrels. Billions. Naturally the atmosphere is a little strange; change is coming, soon.”

Meanest Study Ever February 20, 2010

Posted by aengus in Uncategorized.
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“Indian women also run an outsized risk of unwanted pregnancy and STD’s. One cause is that Indian men’s condoms malfunction more than 15 percent of the time. Why such a high fail rate? According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, some 60 pecent of Indian men have penises too small for the condoms manufactured to fit World Health Organization specs. That was the conclusion of a two-year study in which more than 1,000 Indian men had their penises measured and photographed by scientists. ‘The condom’declared one of the researchers’is not optimized for India'”

Super Freakonomics, Levitt & Dubner, p. 5

The Turing Boogie February 20, 2010

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“If it isn’t thinking, it isn’t working. We need to start with the low-mass bodies, reconfigure them for our own use. Dismantle the moon! Dismantle Mars! Build masses of free-flying nanocomputing processor nodes exchanging data via laser link, each layer running off the waste heat of the next one in. Matrioshka brains, Russian doll Dyson spheres the size of solar systems. Teach dumb matter to do the Turing boogie!”

Accelerando, Charles Stross, p. 14

New Search Engines to play with August 12, 2009

Posted by aengus in Uncategorized.
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There’s a lot more ompetition among search engines right now, compared with a year ago.  Some, such as Bing and Google Squared, are updates to existing engines. Others, such as Hakia, Kosmix, Cuil and Alpha are new and different somehow. If you’re stuck in a search rut, check some of them out or read this posting on RW Web or this CNN article for more information.

RFID News August 12, 2009

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The latest news reports on RFID aren’t encouraging.One major company just filed for bankrupcy. Privacy and security are ongoing concerns. Read/Write Web recently posted an excellent summary of the encouraging signs and obstacles, and other developments in the RFID market. The existence of new, competing technology (e.g. Bokode), should give libraries pause about investing too many resources into RFID at this point in time.

Cognitive diversity and the value of reading December 15, 2008

Posted by aengus in decision-making, diversity, reading.
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Following up on my last post about diverse thinkers vs. specialized thinkers and the benefits of diversity, I found this quote in an interview with Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner:

Q: What are your work styles like?
A: We have certain things in common. We both hate to have too many forward commitments in our schedules. We both insist on a lot of time being available almost every day to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. We read and think. So Warren and I do more reading and thinking and less doing than most people in business [emphasis mine].