Saturday, September 15, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018
"Getting into the habit of having no opinion on things you know nothing about is highly recommended. I try to follow this rule whenever possible."
-Tony Isola, from here
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
"We would be humbled to know how little of our daily work matters. At the same time, we would be surprised to learn which of it matters enormously."
The world since 1914 has developed in ways very different from what I should have desired. Nationalism has increased, militarism has increased, liberty has diminished. Large parts of the world are less civilized than they were. Victory in two great wars has much diminished the good things for which we fought. All thinking and feeling is overshadowed by the dread of a new war worse than either of its predecessors. No limit can be seen to the possibilities of scientific destruction. But, in spite of these causes for apprehension, there are reasons, though less obvious ones, for cautious hope. It would now be technically possible to unify the world and abolish war altogether. It would also be technically possible to abolish poverty completely. These things would be done if men desired their own happiness more than the misery of their enemies. There were, in the past, physical obstacles to human well-being. The only obstacles now are in the souls of men. Hatred, folly and mistaken beliefs alone stand between us and the millennium. While they persist, they threaten us with unprecedented disaster. But perhaps the very magnitude of the peril may frighten the world into common sense.
-Bertrand Russell, from his essay "From Logic To Politics in Portraits From Memory and Other Essays. Russell (1872-1970) published this book in 1951.
About a decade ago, two Harvard professors, David Cutler and Grant Miller, set out to ascertain the impact of chlorination (and other water filtration techniques) between 1900 and 1930, the period when they were implemented across the United States. Because extensive data existed for rates of disease and particularly infant mortality in different communities around the country, and because chlorination systems were rolled out in a staggered fashion, Cutler and Miller were able to get an extremely accurate portrait of chlorine's effect on public health. They found that clean drinking water led to a 43 percent reduction in total mortality in the average American city. Even more impressive, chlorine and filtration systems reduced infant mortality by 74 percent, and child mortality by almost as much.
It is important to pause for a second to reflect on the significance of those numbers, to take them out of the dry domain of public health statistics and into the realm of lived experience. Until the twentieth century, one of the givens of being a parent was that you faced a very high likelihood that at least one of your children would die at an early age. What may well be the most excruciating experience that we can confront - the loss of a child - was simply a routine fact of existence. Today, in the developed world at least, that routine fact has been turned into a rarity. One of the most fundamental challenges of being alive - keeping your children safe from harm - was dramatically lessened, in part through massive engineering projects, and in part through the invisible collision between compounds of calcium hypochlorite and microscopic bacteria. The people behind that revolution didn't become rich, and very few of them became famous. But they left an imprint on our lives that is in many ways more profound than the legacy of Edison or Rockefeller or Ford.
-Steven Johnson, How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
It's so important to have a hobby. A hobby is something creative that's just for you. You don't try to make money or get famous off it, you just do it because it makes you happy. A hobby is something that gives but doesn't take. While my art is for the world to see, music is only for me and my friends. We get together every Sunday and make noise for a couple of hours. No pressure, no plans. It's regenerative. It's like church.
Don't throw any of yourself away. Don't worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don't worry about unity - what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day, you'll look back and it will all make sense.
-Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires, and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own.
Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.
-James Allen, As A Man Thinketh
The insightful and luckily nonacademic historian Tom Holland once commented: "The thing I most admire about the Romans was the utter contempt they were capable of showing the cult of youth." He also wrote: "the Romans judged their political system by asking not whether it made sense but whether it worked," ...
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin In The Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life
Percolating down to us through a process of selective amnesia, recollections by contemporary admirers (and detractors), the story of Eamon de Valera's childhood and youth comes across as a combination of Aesopian fable and Lincolnesque progression from log cabin to White House, laced along the way with a liberal dash of what is known in Ireland as the "cute hoor" approach or, in less Rabelaisian societies, peasant cunning.
-Tim Pat Coogan, Eamon de Valera: The Man Who Was Ireland
Monday, September 10, 2018
The good people at P.E.T.A. convinced the makers of Animal Crackers that caging those wild animals was a no-good thing. Nabisco saw the error of their ways and redesigned the package, freeing the animals. It didn't take long for the Internet to spring into action.........................
George Orwell was burdened from birth by colonial guilt. Motihari, in the state of of Bihar in northern India, was an unlikely place for this quintessentially English writer to be born. The town itself, on the broiling, dusty plains between the Himalayas and the Ganges River, was a rough colonial outpost, "pleasantly situated on the east bank of a lake," with a jail, a school, public offices crammed with mildewed files and the headquarters of a troop of the Bihar Light Horse. The local people barely survived by making cooking-oil, rugs and string moneybags. The place and circumstances of his birth were crucial factors in Orwell's life. He was brought up to believe in the righteousness of British rule in India, and in his late teens, became a colonial servant himself. But his heritage contained the seeds of its own destruction. He would later abandon this hateful job and condemn the evils of imperialism.
-Jeffrey Meyers, Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation
"Create a culture in which it is okay to make mistakes and unacceptable not to learn from them."
Love is the ark appointed for the righteous,
Which annuls the danger and provides a way of escape.
Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.
Cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment intuition.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
We have (at least) two new neighbors: a pair of red foxes. In the past month, I've caught sight of them a half dozen times while walking Rufus in the early morning. I can report they are quick and camera shy, which is why this makes me smile:
More such photos can be found here.
Thanks Swiss Miss
Paul Krugman opines:
True, Kavanaugh is at least getting a hearing, which the tax bill never did. But he’s bobbing and weaving his way through, refusing to answer even straightforward questions, displaying an evasiveness utterly at odds with the probity we used to expect of Supreme Court justices.
...........by scrolling through the Astronomy Picture of the Day site on a regular basis. The only thing better than the pictures is reading their guess at what the picture really means. We are blessed to be living in the age of the Hubble SpaceTelescope.