Ramblings & ephemera

Architecture & the quality without a name

From Brian Hayes’ “The Post-OOP Paradigm“: Christopher Alexander [a bricks-and-steel architect] is known for the enigmatic thesis that well-designed buildings and towns must have “the quality without a name.” He explains: “The fact that this quality cannot be named does not mean that it is vague or imprecise. It is impossible to name because it […]

MTBU: Maximum Time to Belly Up

From The Register’s “How ATM fraud nearly brought down British banking“: And there wasn’t time for the banks to fix the problem if anyone went public with it. Their MTBU was too short. MTBU? That’s “Maximum Time to Belly Up”, as coined by the majestic Donn Parker of Stanford Research Institute. He found that businesses […]

kanso and shizen and presentations

From Garr Reynolds’ “Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic“: A key tenet of the Zen aesthetic is kanso or simplicity. In the kanso concept beauty, grace, and visual elegance are achieved by elimination and omission. Says artist, designer and architect, Dr. Koichi Kawana, “Simplicity means the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means.” … The […]

Good advice re: contracts

From Matt Asay’s “Words to live by“: This was one of the few things I learned at Stanford Law School: you never want to have to enforce a contract, because the clear interpretation of a contract becomes much less clear the minute both sides stop agreeing on that interpretation.

How to know if you should worry

From Bruce Schneier’s “Should Terrorism be Reported in the News?” in Crypto-Gram (15 May 2005): One of the things I routinely tell people is that if it’s in the news, don’t worry about it. By definition, “news” means that it hardly ever happens. If a risk is in the news, then it’s probably not worth […]

Breaking up is like a cold

From Ben Jones’ Benblog, in February 2003: Ben on breaking up with a girl: “Archer said last night that getting over a girl is like getting over a cold. You just wake up one day, after the lingering affects are over, and vaguely remember that you were sick.”

How much the Net will change things

From Robert Hertzberg’s “The Coming Shakeout” in WebWeek (3 February 1997): … the Internet [will] change things less in the near term than is generally assumed, but far more over the long term than anyone can imagine.

Symbolic sight

From "The Habit of Democracy" by Adam Gopnik in the 15 October 2001 issue of The New Yorker, a review of two books about Alexis de Tocqueville: Newcomers, like newborns, have symbolic sight. They see faces first, and features later. 

Responsibility vs accountability

Responsibility: "I’ll do it." Accountability: "I’ll pay a price if I don’t do it right."