277 Articles


5 years Ago

We are watching and we are Legion

Published by marco on

“The threat is no longer Big Brother, but instead thousands of Little Brothers.”

The main advantage of a type-safe language

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“A type system is the most cost-effective unit test you’ll ever have.”
Peter Hallam

On the inadequacy of language

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“He knows that there are in the soul tints more bewildering, more numberless, and more nameless than the colours of an autumn forest… Yet he seriously believes that these things can every one of them, in all their tones and semitones, in all their blends and unions, be accurately represented by an arbitrary system of grunts and squeals. He believes that an ordinary civilized stockbroker can really produce out of his own inside noises which denote all the mysteries of memory and all the agonies... [More]”
Words by G.K. Chesterton (The Language Log)

XX beats XY

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“Women, my friend, are the new men. They get things done. Our female colleagues are sane and smart, they stick together and they smell a helluva lot better than we do.”
Senator Gil John Biggs (Alpha House S02E09: Will There be Water)

Alpha House is a TV show on Amazon Prime about four Republican U.S. Senators living together in a house in Washington D.C. John Goodman is just fantastic as Gil John Biggs. Definitely worth a watch: it might even be better than Veep.

It’s all relative

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“Relativity is like this: If you have seven hairs on your head, it’s very few but if you have seven hairs in your milk, it’s very many.[1]
Why Life is Absurd by Rivka Weinberg (New York Times)

Excerpt from the comedy routine “Einstein/Weinstein,” by the Yiddish comedy duo Shimon Dzigan and Yisroel Shumacher.

Depose the King

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“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.”
Speech at National Book Awards by Ursula K. Le Guin

Invisible violence

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“Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

“But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all.


“Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place... [More]”

Harold Pinter: Art, Truth & Politics by Harold Pinter on December 7th, 2005 (Nobel Prize.Org)

My entire life it’s been like this

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“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party…and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt…and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”
State of the Union by Gore Vidal on 1975

6 years Ago

Believe everything you read

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“I believe everything I read on the Internet. Why would you not? Someone took the time to write it—they’re not going to lie.”
John F. O'Donnell

When you really start learning

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“The paradox of education is precisely this—that as one begins to become conscious, one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”

Doing something worthwhile vs. working for a living

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“We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist.... [More]”
Buckminster Fuller on March 30th, 1970 (The New York Magazine)

Big Business

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“As long as politics is the shadow cast on society by big business, the attenuation of the shadow will not change the substance.”
John Dewey

The job of a descriptivist linguist

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“Yes, there are rules of grammar. It is Coogan’s job (and yours) to try to obey them. And it is my job as a linguist to try and figure out what they are, and to state them precisely. And also to not be a jerk about it: my job as a language user is to forgive Coogan (or you) for any difficulty he (or you) might have in following them in spontaneous speech, and to use my common sense in trying to figure out what he (or you) might have meant.”
Everything he was in he raised the quality by Geoffrey K. Pullum (Language Log)

7 years Ago

The Self-hating American

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Page 128–130 of Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut on 1969
“America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor, and poor Americans are urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humorist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime for an American to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone with power and gold. No such tales are told by... [More]”

Inspiring eyes-open cynicism (it’s just a ride)

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I just recently came across this bit by Bill Hicks[1] again. It illuminates what for me makes a good comic. Observational humor is only the very beginning. What makes a comedian memorable for me—what puts him or her on my all-time best list—is a mixture of good storytelling and philosophy as well as a cynical awareness of the utter nonsense that is the human condition. If you mix that with an ability to deliver hope from the depths of eyes-open cynical awareness, then you’ve got gold. A pity... [More]

On Plagiarism

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“Oh, dear me, how unspeakably funny and owlishly idiotic and grotesque was that ‘plagiarism’ farce! As if there was much of anything in any human utterance, oral or written, except plagiarism! The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and... [More]”

What the Wizard of Oz actually does

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SMBC puts some very interesting words in the wizard’s mouth that explains his role quite well. After Dorothy and Co. have revealed him to be a fraud—a mere man rather than the all-powerful wizard they’d imagined him to be—he says,

“[…] Now then, you can either persist in your dull revelation, or you can close the curtain and return to your world where good and power can allow without wicked dross, and where the broken vessels of your lives can be made whole by the caprice of an... [More]”

Falling through the cracks

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“The question shouldn’t be why do so many people fall through the cracks; rather, it should be why are there so many cracks in the first place?”
Bill Moyers (paraphrasing Jim Hightower) (The Colbert Report)

Democracy and Capitalism

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It is difficult to imagine how democracy and capitalism are to work together. Democracy is ineffective in the presence of concentrated power; and capitalism acts to concentrate power.

The world of animals

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“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals… We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err… They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves within the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.”

Racism is, apparently, a thing of the past in America

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I found the following analogies, offered in response to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the preclearance clause of the Civil Rights Act—the stipulation that certain U.S. states with a long history of discriminatory voting practice have to “pre-clear” changes to voting law with the Federal government—entirely apropos.

“Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are... [More]”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Learn philosophy; it’s important

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“The history of philosophy is the history of very tempting mistakes made by very smart people, and if you don’t learn that history you’ll make those mistakes again and again and again. One of the ignoble joys of my life is watching very smart scientists just reinvent all the second-rate philosophical ideas because they’re very tempting until you pause, take a deep breath and take them apart.”

Achieving mediocrity

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“No man demands what he desires; each man demands what he fancies he can get. Soon people forget what the man really wanted first; and after a successful and vigorous political life, he forgets it himself. The whole is an extravagant riot of second bests, a pandemonium of pis-aller. Now this sort of pliability does not merely prevent any heroic consistency, it also prevents any really practical compromise. One can only find the middle distance between two points if the two points will stand... [More]”
G. K. Chesterton


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“Please don’t confuse my intensity with disrespect.”
Interview with Alice Rivlin by Cornell West on March 1st, 2013 (PRI: Smiley and West)

Cornell West once again distinguished himself with insightful and unrelenting but respectful questioning, taking Rivlin to task for pleading for the status quo. She took offense when he said that her lofty but toothless rhetoric would lead nowhere but a shrug of the shoulders as it once again failed to have the espoused effect. She claimed that the poor were well-represented—and intimated that their representation was as successful as that... [More]

Relative effort

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“One crazy man can block the well, but it takes the whole village to remove the stone.”


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“Absinthe: for when it’s Friday night and you don’t have to be anywhere ‘til Tuesday.”
From: Lori Silverbush & Kristi Jacobson by Jon Stewart on February 26, 2013 (The Daily Show)

8 years Ago

For some people? There is no cure.

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There's no cure… by Bronn/Tyrion (YouTube)

Bronn: The little king’s backed up; clogged from balls to brains
Tyrion: Do you think dipping his wick will cure what ails him?
Bronn: There’s no cure for being a cunt[1]

Game of Thrones S02E04

[1] For those who will immediately complain that the use of this word is captial-N never appropriate, I say simply that you have not seen young king Joffrey in action. Nor his mother, to whom the aforementioned epithet applies equally well (viz. season 2, episode 9, in which she drinks herself into a hate-filled hole and takes... [More]

Progress defined

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The luck of the draw

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“My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.”
My philanthropic pledge by Warren Buffett (CNN)

Ignorance is self-perpetuating

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“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance with his instincts, he will accept it even on the slenderest evidence.”
From Proposed Roads to Freedom by Bertrand Russell on 1918