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Recent Readings

Book review: Darwinia
Reviewed: Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer reading: Spin
Reviewed: Saturday, August 5, 2006

Runner
Reviewed: Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the Omnivoire's Delimma
Reviewed: Wednesday, July 12, 2006

the Golem's Eye
Reviewed: Wednesday, May 31, 2006





tinderbox

The harder you made it for people to do foolish things the harder you make it for them to do things you didn't anticipate.

-- John Foderaro
* * *

how does one realize one is a fool, I see people all over the place who don't seem to realize it.

-- Peter Paine
* * *

"One of the frustrating things for those of us who have spent so much time in war zones is to come back and see how those who are guiltiest--those who pushed the country into war, who told the lies that perpetuated the war--are never held accountable. And those who suffer the most, those who endure the trauma and have to live with the memories for the rest of their lives, are blamed unjustly."

-- Chris Hedges , (Source)
* * *

Creon: Now tell me, in as few words as you can, Did you know the order forbidding such an act?

Antigone: I knew it, naturally. It was plain enough.

Creon: And yet you dared to contravene it?

Antigone: Yes. That order did not come from God. Justice, That dwells with the gods below, knows no such law. I did not think your edicts strong enough To overrule the unwritten unalterable laws Of God and heaven, you being only a man. They are not of yesterday or today, but everlasting, Though where they came from, none of us can tell. Guilty of their transgression before God I cannot be, for any man on earth.

-- Sophocles, Antigone
* * *

Every person named in this scandal is a Republican. Every person under investigation is a Republican. Every person indicted is a Republican. This is a Republican finance scandal.

-- Howard Dean , (Source)
* * *

And I think, frankly, that Joe is absolutely wrong, that it is incumbent on every American who is patriotic and cares about their country to stand up for what's right and not go along with the president, who is leading us in a wrong direction.

-- Howard Dean , (Source)
* * *

"I call it a cultural environment into which our children are born, and which tells all the stories," he said. "You know, who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behavior. It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it's a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell, but a great deal to sell."

-- George Gerbner , (Source)
* * *

What is so incredibly exciting about this discovery is that what we found turned out to be totally different from what we thought we would find. ... But it shows that you cannot just rely on making theories alone. In the end, you have to build the machine and do the experiment. What you learn is often more beautiful than the most vivid imagination.

-- Gary Westfall , (Source)
* * *

There is no problem with my attitude! Gawd!

(said in a very surly voice)

-- Brennan King
* * *

The work is more important than the talking and the writing about the work.

-- Dorothy Day
* * *

There have been enough words, enough sermons and books. What matters now is deeds.

-- Emmy Arnold
* * *

Programming is a common skill. It is only awkward when we are trying to solve hard problems (as it should be) or using inappropriate tools!

-- Bob Frankston , (Source)
* * *

Luck is variable, ephemeral even, and success depends upon it more than we can generally bring ourselves to admit.

-- Richard K. Morgan , (Source)
* * *

A computer is like an Old Testament god, with a lot of rules and no mercy.

-- Joseph Cambell
* * *

But the answer to the plight of the "underdeveloped" nations is not more development. It is an end to exploitation, tyranny and overpopulation.

-- Dave Pollard , (Source)
* * *

From "My Grandfather's Blessings"

Disappointment and loss are a part of every life. Many times we can put them behind us and get on with the rest of our lives. But not everything is amenable to this approach. Some things are too big or too deep to do this, and we will have to leave important parts of ourselves behind if we treat them in this way. These are the places where wisdom begins to grow in us. It begins with suffering that we do not avoid or rationalize or put behind us. It starts with the realization that our loss, whatever it is, has become a part of us and has altered our lives so profoundly that we cannot go back to the way it was before.

The thing about the many strategies we use to shelter ourselves from feeling loss is that none of them leads to healing. Although denial, rationalization, substitution, avoidance, and the like may numb the pain of loss, every one of them hurts us in some far more fundamental ways. None is respectful toward life or toward process. None acknowledges our capacity for finding meaning or wisdom.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen
* * *

No representation of the world is either complete or permanent.

(Analyzing due process in the workplace, ACM Transactions Office Information Systems, 4(3), 257-270).

-- Gerson and Stone
* * *

The iPod just works. That's the secret of its success. It sounds simple, but there's nothing much more to it.

-- Phil Leigh, an analyst for Inside Digital Media
* * *

So many companies are competing against each other with similar agendas. Being superficially different is the goal of so many of the products we see. A preoccupation with differentiation is the concern of many corporations rather than trying to innovate and genuinely taking the time, investing the resources and caring enough to try and make something better.

-- Jonathan Ive , (Source)
* * *

... fanatical care beyond the obvious stuff: the obsessive attention to details that are often overlooked, like cables and power adaptors.

-- Jonathan Ive , (Source)
* * *

"The President has done the obvious, only after it was clear he couldn't get away with the inexcusable." [unconfirmed]

-- John Kerry
* * *

Violence as a way of achieving justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

-- Martin Luther King
* * *

You yourself are the child you must learn to know, rear, and above all enlighten. To demand that others should provide you with answers is like asking a strange woman to give birth to your baby. There are insights that can be born only of your own pain, and they are the most precious. Seek in your child the undiscovered part of yourself.

-- Janusz Korczak
* * *

(via Bruderhof.com)

You are fed up with words, and I don't blame you. I am nauseated by them sometimes. I am also, to tell the truth, nauseated by ideals and with causes. This sounds like heresy, but I think you will understand what I mean.

It is so easy to get engrossed with ideas and slogans and myths that in the end one is left holding the bag, empty, with no trace of meaning left in it. And then the temptation is to yell louder than ever in order to make the meaning be there again by magic.

-- Thomas Merton
* * *

(via Bruderhof.com)

Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect.

As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. And there too a great deal has to be gone through, as gradually you struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. The range tends to narrow down, but it gets much more real. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.

-- Thomas Merton
* * *

Now, for all its failings and its perversions over the last 2,000 years — and as much as every exponent of this faith has attempted to dodge this idea — it is unarguably the central tenet of Christianity: that everybody is equal in God's eyes. So you cannot, as a Christian, walk away from Africa. America will be judged by God if, in its plenty, it crosses the road from 23 million people suffering from HIV, the leprosy of the day.

What's up on trial here is Christianity itself. You cannot walk away from this and call yourself a Christian and sit in power. Distance does not decide who is your brother and who is not. The church is going to have to become the conscience of the free market if it's to have any meaning in this world — and stop being its apologist.

-- Bono
* * *

Today our schools are just as segregated as they were in 1968, the year after Dr. King died. Race is the biggest challenge we face, and we have proven unequal to facing it.

-- Julian Bond, board chair of the NAACP
* * *

Being means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

-- Rainer Maria Rilke
* * *

Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone, therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint; therefore we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

-- Reinhold Niebuhr
* * *

I don't believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person and learns from the other. Most of us have a lot to learn from other people.

-- Eduardo Galeano
* * *

The country is in deep trouble. We've forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that's the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never to allow despair to have the last word.

-- Cornell West
* * *

Nothing, not even victory,

will erase the terrible hole of blood:

nothing, neither the sea,

nor the passing of sand and time,

nor the geranium burning

over the grave.

-- Pablo Neruda
* * *

When space opens up, human beings have a tendency to fill it up for many reasons. It could be that those things give us a sense of security or importance. Maybe it helps us feel successful or it's an indication that our life has value. Whatever the reason (and don't get me wrong, I love some of that stuff!) many people have misidentified that stuff as who they are. When the space is no longer cluttered, we have an opportunity to make a shift from "doing" to "being". Being with others and being with ourselves. In the place of being we have an opening to start to create our life rather than react to it.

-- Leslie Boyer
* * *

[Perfectly run organizations do not exit] It is an enduring limitation - if it is a limitation - of our human condition. It means that humans do not exist to give their all to organizations run by someone else, and that organizations inevitably will be run, to some degree, contrary to their interests. This is why it is not a problem of "capitalism"; socialist countries, and even the ideal communist system, cannot escape the dilemmas of cooperative, organized effort on any substantial scale and with any substantial complexity and uncertainty. At some point the cost of extracting obedience exceeds the benefits of organized activity.

-- Charles Perrow
* * *

There is often more wisdom to be found at the edges of life than in its middle. A life-threatening illness, for instance, may shuffle our values like a deck of cards. Sometimes a card that has been on the bottom of the deck for most of our lives turns out to be the top card, the thing that really matters. Having watched people sort their cards and play their hands in the presence of death for many years, I would say that most often the top card is love.

-- Rachel Naomi Remen
* * *

We all build internal sea walls to keep at bay the sadnesses of life and the often overwhelming forces within our minds. In whatever way we do this -- through love, work, family, faith, friends, denial, alcohol, drugs, or medication -- we build these walls, stone by stone, over a lifetime. One of the most difficult problems is to construct these barriers of such a height and strength that one has a true harbor, a sanctuary away from crippling turmoil and pain, but yet low enough, and permeable enough, to let in fresh sea-water that will fend off the inevitable inclination toward brackishness.

-- Kay Jamison
* * *

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here... that these dead shall not have died in vain.

-- Abraham Lincoln
* * *

Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We cherish our children's future. We are all mortal.

-- John F. Kennedy
* * *

I am shocked at how little my colleagues in genetics pay attention to history. They actually forget how ignorant we are—that although we have achieved incredible manipulative powers, we know next to nothing about the real world in which those manipulations will reverberate.

-- David Suziki , (Source)
* * *

I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.

You don't get rewarded in commercial broadcasting for trying to tell the truth about the institutions of power in this country, I think my peers in commercial television are talented and devoted journalists, but they've chosen to work in a corporate mainstream that trims their talent to fit the corporate nature of American life. And you do not get rewarded for telling the hard truths about America in a profit-seeking environment.

We have got to nurture the spirit of independent journalism in this country, or we'll not save capitalism from its own excesses, and we'll not save democracy from its own inertia.

-- Bill Moyers , (Source)
* * *

Waiting is not a very popular attitude. Waiting is not something that people think about with great sympathy. In fact, most people consider waiting a waste of time. Perhaps this is because the culture in which we live is basically saying, "Get going! Do something! Show you are able to make a difference! Don't just sit there and wait!" For many people, waiting is an awful desert between where they are and where they want to go. And people do not like such a place. They want to get out of it by doing something.

In our particular historical situation, waiting is even more difficult because we are so fearful. One of the most pervasive emotions in the atmosphere around us is fear. People are afraid—afraid of inner feelings, afraid of other people, and also afraid of the future. Fearful people have a hard time waiting, because when we are afraid we want to get away from where we are. But if we cannot flee, we may fight instead. Many of our destructive acts come from the fear that something harmful will be done to us. And if we take a broader perspective—that not only individuals but whole communities and nations might be afraid of being harmed—we can understand how hard it is to wait and how tempting it is to act. Here are the roots of a "first strike" approach to others. People who live in a world of fear are more likely to make aggressive, hostile, destructive responses than people who are not so frightened. The more afraid we are, the harder waiting becomes. That is why waiting is such an unpopular attitude for many people.

-- Henri J.M. Nouwen , (Source)
* * *

For Social Security is a government program that works, a demonstration that a modest amount of taxing and spending can make people's lives better and more secure. And that's why the right wants to destroy it.

-- Paul Krugman , (Source)
* * *

Why are we sending our kids to foreign countries to die in an effort to ostensibly extend democracy while back at home, we are putting some of our most precious democratic rights at risk?

-- Alan Chartock , (Source)
* * *

Men pray to the Almighty to relieve poverty. But poverty comes not from God's laws—it is blasphemy of the worst kind to say that. Poverty comes from man's injustice to his fellow man.

-- Leo Tolstoy
* * *

Long periods of well-being and comfort are in general dangerous to all. After such prolonged periods, weak souls become incapable of weathering any kind of trial. They are afraid of it. Yet it is a fact that difficult trials and sufferings can facilitate the growth of the soul. I know there is a widespread feeling that if we highly value suffering this is masochism. On the contrary, it is a significant bravery when we respect suffering and understand what burdens it places on our soul.

-- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
* * *

I was a vegetarian for three years as a kid. Now I am a "flexitarian." My friends say it's a PC name for hypocrite. I eat a little bit of everything. Ninety percent of what I eat is organic, and any meat I buy is organic, but when I go out to dinner, I don't always investigate the ingredients. I don't say no when I go to a friend's for dinner and they've prepared a non-organic meal.

-- Nell Newman , (Source)
* * *

The question of why evil exists is the same as why there is imperfection, or, in other words, why there is creation at all. We must take it for granted that it could not be otherwise: that creation must be imperfect and gradual. The real question we ought to ask is this: Is such imperfection the final truth; is evil absolute and ultimate? The river has its boundaries, its banks, but is a river all banks? Or are the banks the only important aspect of the river? Do not these obstructions themselves give the water an onward motion? The towing rope binds a boat, but is the bondage its meaning? Does it not at the same time draw the boat forward?

-- Rabindranath Tagore
* * *

It's not clear that our ability to cope with change is growing as fast as the pace of change itself."

-- Walter Russell Mead , (Source)
* * *

"There is such an enormous gap between our words and deeds! Everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and peace; but at the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to defend and serve his own interests, and those of his group or his state. Who should break this vicious circle? Responsibility cannot be preached: it can only be borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself."

-- Vaclav Havel
* * *

And holy cow, are the D's ever about to get a gift from the R's. R's are apparently planning to scrap the progressive tax system entirely and make it all regressive. Good grief -- that's not only unbelievable, it's immoral.

-- Molly Ivins , (Source)
* * *

How pitiful that people thought they were voting against "the liberal elite" when all George Bush has ever done to the liberal elite is to give it huge tax cuts.

-- Molly Ivins , (Source)
* * *

...if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.

-- Howard Zinn
* * *

If we can't persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we'd better reexamine our reasoning.

-- Robert McNamara
* * *

Why were we in this fight in the first place? Because terrible leaders are doing terrible things to our country and calling this wonderful. Because radical reactionaries are trying to impose their imperialist schemes on whoever they wish and calling this just. Because amoral oligarchs are determined to enhance their slice of the economic pie and calling this the natural order. Because flag-wrapped ideologues want to chop up civil liberties and call this security. Because myopians are in charge of America's future. (http://www.dailykos.com/)

-- Daily Kos
* * *

In any war, there are heros on both sides.

-- The Movie Hero
* * *

In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now.

-- James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies
* * *

It's not what you say. It's what they hear. (heard on Morning Edition, November 2nd, 2004).

-- Red Auerbach
* * *

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds... An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

-- Aldo Leopold
* * *

In which case the danger would no longer be coming from an excessive confidence in ideological arguments posturing as matters of fact—as we have learned to combat so efficiently in the past—but from an excessive distrust of good matters of fact disguised as bad ideological biases!

-- Bruno Latour , (Source)
* * *

If it is too dangerous for monitors to monitor, isn't it too dangerous for Afghans to vote?

-- Andrew Wilder, head of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, a Kabul-based nongovernmental organization,
* * *

"How many more times will it be necessary to repeat that the most destructive weapon of mass destruction in the world is poverty?"

-- Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
* * *

"When we get our spiritual house in order, we'll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don't expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty."

-- Flannery O'Conner
* * *

The essential ingredients of struggles for justice are human beings who, if only for a moment, if only while beset with fears, still step out of line and do something, however small. And even the smallest, most unheroic of acts adds to the pile of kindling that may be ignited by some surprising circumstance into tumultuous change.

-- Howard Zinn
* * *

'Artists are the Antennae of the Race'. This is how Ezra Pound memorably begins his essay on the relationship between literature, pedagogy and culture.1 Initially it is tempting to distil Pound's words as a further entry in a grand 'ragbag' of literary citations. But following this phrase comes an explanatory note. Pound continues: 'a nation's writers are the voltometers and steam gauges of that nation's intellectual life. They are the registering instruments, and if they falsify their reports there is no measure to the harm that they do.' Reading these lines now we are reminded (ironically enough) of Pound's own radio broadcasts in support of Mussolini during World War II. Never was the relationship between concept and praxis, culture and politics more notoriously or naively tangled in literary history.

-- Nerys Williams on Erza Pound , (Source)
* * *

The general problem, which I've observed in various contexts, is that it's increasingly difficult to keep people focussed on simple problems. Of course all of the issues that people raise are real, but in most cases they are either irrelevant or simply complicate the problem in incalculable ways. We need to focus on the simplified versions of the problems in order to use them as tools to analyze alternative architectures.

My dream is that one day someone will listen to my scenario and immediately propose a simplification, in order to make it more computationally tractable. Most of the systems that we've dreamed up over the last twenty years are far too complicated, and the analysis of the whole becomes even more problematic if we load even more complex application patterns on top of them.

-- Geoff Arnold , (Source)
* * *

"Without regret," Berry wrote, "with less and less interest in the disciplines of thrift and conservation ... our present agriculture wastes topsoil, water, fossil fuel, and human energy. ... We are eating thoughtlessly, as no other entire society ever has been able to do."

-- Wendell Berry
* * *

"I was the first one laid off," he said. "And while it's true that new jobs are being created, they're just not as good as the jobs people have lost. And incidentally, that's been true for me too."

-- Al Gore
* * *

It is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.

-- John Kerry
* * *

DDJ: You've mentioned Edsgar Dijkstra. What do you think of his work?

DK: His great strength is that he is uncompromising. It would make him physically ill to think of programming in C++.

-- Donald Knuth on Edsgar Dijkstra
* * *

The important thing, once you have enough to eat and a nice house, is what you can do for others, what you can contribute to the enterprise as a whole.

-- Donald Knuth
* * *

Some things are worth getting mad about. Case in point: the growing, vast equality gap between the richest and the poorest Americans. If this isn't class war, what is?

-- Bill Moyers , (Source)
* * *

Slowly it dawned on my that nothing was more important than stopping violence toward women -- that the desecration of women indicated the failure of human beings to honor and protect life and that this failing would, if we did not correct it, be the end of us all. I do not think I am being extreme. When you rape, beat, maim, mutilate, burn, bury, and terrorize women, you destroy the essential life energy on the planet. You force what is meant to be open, trusting, nurturing, creative and alive to be bent, infertile, broken.

-- Eve Ensler, the Vagina Monologues
* * *

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Copyright -- Gary Warren King, 2004 - 2006