...his willed solitude is like a second skin. "To myself, I am invisible," he told me. "I've always been hiding out. It's my delusion. But I've been very lucky. Things have befallen me, and I haven't succumbed."

Carl Andre


Dec. 6th, 2011 01:54 pm
...in principle, simply the existence of totalitarian states is an affront to democratic values. Totalitarian governments throw their political opponents into prison or kill them; they pursue genocidal policies toward their own people and try to dominate their weaker neighbors. If democratic governments are not committed to the abolition of such regimes—sooner or later, by some means or other—then their foreign policies are not worth much.

Louis Menand in a book review of George F. Kennan: An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis
Rev. Hale:
We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise.
               Arthur Miller
To those who still cling to a single-universe world-view, I issue this challenge: explain how Shor's algorithm works. I do not merely mean predict that it will work, which is merely a matter of solving a few uncontroversial equations. I mean provide an explanation. When Shor’s algorithm has factorized a number; using 10[500] or so times the computational resources than can be seen to be present, where was the number factorized? There are only about 10[80] atoms in the entire visible universe, an utterly minuscule number compared with 10[500]. So if the visible universe were the extent of physical reality, physical reality would not even remotely contain the resources required to factorize such a large number. Who did factorize it, then? How, and where, was the computation performed?

David Deutsch

from a New Yorker article about David Deutsch & quantum computing
I'm slogging through a couple of books at work. One of them is merely OK as a tech book, but it has nice chapter epigraphs :-)

1The man of virtue makes the difficulty to be overcome his first business, and success only a subsequent consideration. Confucius
2A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. Frank Herbert
3In general, an implementation must be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior. Jon Postel
4You must unlearn what you have learned. Yoda
5When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only of how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. Buckminster Fuller
6Before software can be reusable it first has to be usable. Ralph Jackson
7I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something. Richard Feynman
8A test that reveals a bug has succeeded, not failed. Boris Beizer
9The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which with the addition of certain verbal interpretations, describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work. John von Neumann
10A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking. Jerry Seinfield
11Everything is in a state of flux, including the status quo. Robert Byrne
human venality is something I always expect and forgive
        Tennessee Williams on Elia Kazan's friendly testimony before HUAC

Liu Xiaobo

Dec. 10th, 2010 06:27 pm

...it has been important to remind the world that the rights so widely enjoyed today were fought for and won by persons who took great risks. They did so for others. That is why Liu Xiaobo deserves our support.
                           Norwegian Nobel Committee, December 2010

Overheard this standing in line at a local taco stand. The two were having a long-time-no-see conversation.

Old Redneck (50 something): ...that's Obama's fault.
Young Redneck (20 something): I'm sorry but that's definitely not Obama's fault, it's George Bush's fault - he's the one who gave us the whole mess...
No art has been so hindered in its development by teachers as music, since
nobody watches more closely over his property than the man who knows that, strictly speaking, it does not belong to him.

Arnold Schoenberg - Harmonielehre

                             It is difficult
     to get the news from poems
                 yet men die miserably every day
                             for lack
     of what is found there.

W.C. Williams
mlr: (modern)
"Across the country, electrified fences, walls jagged with broken glass, security gates had gone up as inequality grew. This frenzy of fence-building was not just an Indian thing. It was as global as the crisis in garbage. And it reflected uneasiness about a time that might or might not come in which information flowed so freely that, however little the rich wished to consider the details of the poor, the poor might fully consider the details of the rich. Not the fantasy contours of wealth long available on the television and on the billboards but the precise thing happening next door. The fences insured against a time when a scavenger in Gautam Nagar [a slum next to Mumbai's airport] might learn that a shot of rare Scotch consumed in ten minutes at the Sheraton's ITC Maratha cost exactly as much as he earned in seven hundred fourteen-hour days picking up aluminum cans and used tampon applicators, and find that information too much to bear.

The marvel was that the city didn't already look like a real-life version of the mad, insurrectionist Metal Slug 3, given that the poor far outnumbered the rich. This was the marvel of many great twenty-first-century cities, including New York and Washington, whose levels of inequality now match those of Abidjan and Nairobi. Maybe they should have looked like Metal Slug 3. Instead, ingenious social constructions--democracy, charity, subtle and blatant articulations of caste, hope, electrified fences--were keeping things more or less in order."

from an article by Katherine Boo
...in the future the technique of photography will be so simplified and so widely taught and understood that the illiterate person will be the one who is not a photographer. Then, with mastery of the purely physical features of photography at his command, the photographer can go as far as his will of expression and his imagination will lead him. Even so, there will be good, better, and best.

Moholy-Nagy, 1944

...prompted by

..finished reading 'A Moveable Feast' for the second time - the first being in High School.

"What did I know best that I had not written about and lost? What did I know about truly and care for the most? There was no choice at all. There was only the choice of streets to take you back fastest to where you worked. It went up Bonaparte to Guynemer, then to the rue d'Assas, up the rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs to the Closerie des Lilas."

"...try to make instead of describe..."

"Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night's party and return with her eyes blank as a cat's and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone. Scott was being the good cheerful host, and Zelda looked at him and she smiled happily with her eyes, and her mouth too, as he drank the wine. I learned to know that smile very well. It meant she knew that Scott would not be able to write."

"During our last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to the next winter, a nightmare winter disguised as the greatest fun of all, and the murderous summer that was to follow. It was the year that the rich showed up."

...and more )
"You will not easily find a man coming to grief through indifference to the workings of another's soul; but for those who pay no heed to the motion of their own, unhappiness is their sure reward" - Marcus Aurelius
At home, missing israel. I watched 'Into the wild' on DVD - the first movie I've been able to finish at home in a couple of years. Its themes of quest, solitude, "in dreams lie responsibilities", family, and death were poignant.

It was the film of a different generation than mine. For having all the trappings of a he-man Jack London adventure story, it's really a sensitive story of family frailties. The man vs. Alaska film of twenty-five years ago, "Never Cry Wolf" is similar in some ways, but much more uplifting in the end. It has one of the early haunting Mark Isham scores. The score to "Into the Wild" is a set of songs from a member of Pearl Jam - Eddie Vedder. For my taste the songs were laid down a little thick - there was hardly any relief from their melancholy.

A few quotes:

"...people softened by the forced reflection that comes with loss..."

"...when you forgive, you love; and when you love, God's light shines on you..."

"happiness; only real when shared"

These rather worked in the movie, but out of context they verge a bit on being platitudes. The thing about forgiveness of course is true, but to state this without being sentimental is very difficult. (One of the most touching testimonies to forgiveness I've encountered is in Whitney Balliett's New Yorker profile of Peggy Lee.)
finished reading the quiet american

"Perhaps truth and humility go together; so many lies come from our pride."

"A man's body is limited in the acts which it can perform and mine was frozen by memory. What my hand touched that night might be more beautiful than I was used to, but we are not trapped only by beauty. She used the same perfume, and suddenly at the moment of entry the ghost of what I'd lost proved more powerful than the body stretched at my disposal. I moved away and lay on my back and desire drained out of me."

"Everything had gone right with me since he had died, but how I wished there existed someone to whom I could say that I was sorry."
finished reading john donne: the reformed soul

"Every man hath a Politick life, as well as a nauturall life; and he may no more take himself away from the world, then he may make himself away out of the world. For he that does so, by withdrawing himself from his calling, from the labours of mutual society in this life, that man kills himself, and God calls him not."



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