Ramblings & ephemera

Steve Jobs, genius

From Stephen Fry’s “Steve Jobs” (The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: 6 October 2011): Henry Ford didn’t invent the motor car, Rockefeller didn’t discover how to crack crude oil into petrol, Disney didn’t invent animation, the Macdonald brothers didn’t invent the hamburger, Martin Luther King didn’t invent oratory, neither Jane Austen, Tolstoy nor Flaubert invented […]

Umberto Eco on books

From Umberto Eco’s “Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books” (Al-Ahram Weekly: 20—26 November 2003): Libraries, over the centuries, have been the most important way of keeping our collective wisdom. They were and still are a sort of universal brain where we can retrieve what we have forgotten and what we still do not […]

Religion, God, history, morality

From Steve Paulson’s interview with Robert Wright, “God, He’s moody” (Salon: 24 June 2009): Do you think religions share certain core principles? Not many. People in the modern world, certainly in America, think of religion as being largely about prescribing moral behavior. But religion wasn’t originally about that at all. To judge by hunter-gatherer religions, […]

David Foster Wallace on fiction’s purpose in dark times

From Larry McCaffery’s “Conversation with David Foster Wallace” (Dalkey Archive Press at the University of Illinois: Summer 1993): Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition […]

David Foster Wallace on David Lynch

From David Foster Wallace’s “David Lynch Keeps His Head” (Premier: September 1996): AN ACADEMIC DEFINITION of Lynchian might be that the term “refers to a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.” But like postmodern […]

Defining social media, social software, & Web 2.0

From danah boyd’s “Social Media is Here to Stay… Now What?” at the Microsoft Research Tech Fest, Redmond, Washington (danah: 26 February 2009): Social media is the latest buzzword in a long line of buzzwords. It is often used to describe the collection of software that enables individuals and communities to gather, communicate, share, and […]

Bush, rhetoric, & the exercise of power

From Mark Danner’s “Words in a Time of War: Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President” (Tomgram: 10 May 2007): [Note: This commencement address was given to graduates of the Department of Rhetoric at Zellerbach Hall, University of California, Berkeley, on May 10, 2007] … I give you my favorite quotation from the Bush […]

A definition of cloud computing

From Darryl K. Taft’s “Predictions for the Cloud in 2009” (eWeek: 29 December 2008): [Peter] Coffee, who is now director of platform research at Salesforce.com, said, “I’m currently using a simple reference model for what a ‘cloud computing’ initiative should try to provide. I’m borrowing from the famous Zero-One-Infinity rule, canonically defined in The Jargon […]

Problems with airport security

From Jeffrey Goldberg’s “The Things He Carried” (The Atlantic: November 2008): Because the TSA’s security regimen seems to be mainly thing-based—most of its 44,500 airport officers are assigned to truffle through carry-on bags for things like guns, bombs, three-ounce tubes of anthrax, Crest toothpaste, nail clippers, Snapple, and so on—I focused my efforts on bringing […]

Protected: Etymologies & the dictionary definitions of the f-word

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

Richard Stallman on the 4 freedoms

From Richard Stallman’s “Transcript of Richard Stallman at the 4th international GPLv3 conference; 23rd August 2006” (FSF Europe: 23 August 2006): Specifically, this refers to four essential freedoms, which are the definition of Free Software. Freedom zero is the freedom to run the program, as you wish, for any purpose. Freedom one is the freedom […]

What’s a blogject?

From Bruce Sterling’s “Viridian Note 00459: Emerging Technology 2006” (The Viridian Design Movement: March 2006): Here’s another contender from Julian Bleecker … “Blogjects” – objects which emit data about their use.

What is Web 2.0?

From Bruce Sterling’s “Viridian Note 00459: Emerging Technology 2006” (The Viridian Design Movement: March 2006): Here we’ve got the canonical Tim O’Reilly definition of Web 2.0: “Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software […]

Word of the day: creative destruction

From Wikipedia’s “Creative destruction” (13 July 2006): Creative destruction, introduced by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, describes the process of industrial transformation that accompanies radical innovation. In Schumpeter’s vision of capitalism, innovative entry by entrepreneurs was the force that sustained long-term economic growth, even as it destroyed the value of established companies that enjoyed some degree […]

3 English words with the most meanings

From Tim Bray’s “On Search: Squirmy Words” (29 June 2003): First of all, the words that have the most variation in meaning and the most collisions with other words are the common ones. In the Oxford English Dictionary, the three words with the longest entries (i.e. largest number of meanings) are “set,” “run,” and “get.”

A definition of stress

From Cait Murphy’s “Secrets of greatness: How I work” (Fortune: 16 March 2006): Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault (France) and Nissan (Japan): Stress builds up when you know there is a problem but you do not clearly see it, and you do not have a solution.

The politics & basics of Unicode

From Tim Bray’s “On the Goodness of Unicode” (6 April 2003): Unicode proper is a consortium of technology vendors that, many years ago in a flash of intelligence and public-spiritedness, decided to unify their work with that going on at the ISO. Thus, while there are officially two standards you should care about, Unicode and […]

Wikipedia defines fascism

From Wikipedia’s “Fascism” (5 July 2006): Fascism is a radical totalitarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-rationalism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism. … A recent definition that has attracted much favorable comment is that by Robert O. Paxton: “Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by […]

Quick ‘n dirty explanation of onion routing

From Ann Harrison’s Onion Routing Averts Prying Eyes (Wired News: 5 August 2004): Computer programmers are modifying a communications system, originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Lab, to help Internet users surf the Web anonymously and shield their online activities from corporate or government eyes. The system is based on a concept called onion […]

How virtual machines work

From Samuel T. King, Peter M. Chen, Yi-Min Wang, Chad Verbowski, Helen J. Wang, & Jacob R. Lorch’s “SubVirt: Implementing malware with virtual machines ” [PDF] (: ): A virtual-machine monitor (VMM) manages the resources of the underlying hardware and provides an abstraction of one or more virtual machines [20]. Each virtual machine can run […]