Ramblings & ephemera

How changes in glass changed working conditions

From Nicholas Carr’s “(re)framed” (Rough Type: 3 June 2011): I’m reminded of an interesting passage in the book Glass: A World History: As we have seen, one of the rapid developments in glass technology was the making of panes of window glass, plain and coloured, which was particularly noticeable in the northern half of Europe […]

Clay Shirky on the changes to publishing & media

From Parul Sehgal’s “Here Comes Clay Shirky” (Publisher’s Weekly: 21 June 2010): PW: In April of this year, Wired‘s Kevin Kelly turned a Shirky quote—“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution”—into “the Shirky Principle,” in deference to the simple, yet powerful observation. … Kelly explained, “The Shirky Principle declares […]

David Pogue’s insights about tech over time

From David Pogue’s “The Lessons of 10 Years of Talking Tech” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): As tech decades go, this one has been a jaw-dropper. Since my first column in 2000, the tech world has not so much blossomed as exploded. Think of all the commonplace tech that didn’t even exist 10 […]

Hanoi’s last blacksmith

From Seth Mydans’s “A Lone Blacksmith, Where Hammers Rang” (The New York Times: 25 November 2010): HANOI, Vietnam — He is the last blacksmith on Blacksmith Street, dark with soot, his arms dappled with burns, sweating and hammering at his little roadside forge as a new world courses past him. The son and grandson of […]

Ray Bradbury on what you know & how to write

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I learned this early on. Three things are in your head: First, everything you have experienced from the day of your birth until right now. Every single second, every single hour, every single day. […]

Ray Bradbury on his 3 rules to live by

From Sam Weller’s interview of Ray Bradbury in “The Art of Fiction No. 203” (The Paris Review: Spring 2010, No. 192): I have three rules to live by. One, get your work done. If that doesn’t work, shut up and drink your gin. And when all else fails, run like hell!

James Dickey on the personalities of poets

From Franklin Ashley’s interview of James Dickey in “The Art of Poetry No. 20” (The Paris Review: Spring 1976, No. 65): INTERVIEWER: You’ve known a great many poets personally. Do you find some common characteristic—in their madness, their vision, their discipline? DICKEY: I would have to put the answer in the form of a paradox. […]

James Ellroy on how he writes

From Nathaniel Rich’s “Interviews: James Ellroy, The Art of Fiction No. 201” (The Paris Review: Fall 2009): I begin by sitting in the dark. I used to sleep on the living-room couch. There was a while when that was the only place I felt safe. My couch is long because I’m tall, and it needs […]

2 great examples of Tom Wolfe’s early New Journalism writing style

From Tom Wolfe’s “The Last American Hero Is Junior Johnson. Yes!” (Esquire: March 1965): Ten o’clock Sunday morning in the hills of North Carolina. Cars, miles of cars, in every direction, millions of cars, pastel cars, aqua green, aqua blue, aqua beige, aqua buff, aqua dawn, aqua dusk, aqua aqua, aqua Malacca, Malacca lacquer, Cloud […]

A summary of Galbraith’s The Affluent Society

From a summary of John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Affluent Society (Abridge Me: 1 June 2010): The Concept of the Conventional Wisdom The paradigms on which society’s perception of reality are based are highly conservative. People invest heavily in these ideas, and so are heavily resistant to changing them. They are only finally overturned by new […]

Woody Allen’s atheism

From Robert E. Lauder’s interview with Woody Allen, “Whatever Works” (Commonweal: 15 April 2010): Well, you know, you want some kind of relief from the agony and terror of human existence. Human existence is a brutal experience to me…it’s a brutal, meaningless experience—an agonizing, meaningless experience with some oases, delight, some charm and peace, but […]

Ambient awareness & social media

From Clive Thompson’s “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” (The New York Times Magazine: 5 September 2008): In essence, Facebook users didn’t think they wanted constant, up-to-the-minute updates on what other people are doing. Yet when they experienced this sort of omnipresent knowledge, they found it intriguing and addictive. Why? Social scientists have a name […]

Programmer jokes

Q: How do you tell an introverted computer scientist from an extroverted computer scientist? A: An extroverted computer scientist looks at your shoes when he talks to you. Knock, knock. Who’s there? very long pause…. Java. Saying that Java is nice because it works on every OS is like saying that anal sex is nice […]

Malcolm Gladwell on training to be a journalist

From Alex Altman’s “Q&A: Author Malcolm Gladwell” (TIME: 20 October 2009): If you had a single piece of advice to offer young journalists, what would it be? The issue is not writing. It’s what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and […]

Various confidence scams, tricks, & frauds

From “List of confidence tricks” (Wikipedia: 3 July 2009): Get-rich-quick schemes Get-rich-quick schemes are extremely varied. For example, fake franchises, real estate “sure things”, get-rich-quick books, wealth-building seminars, self-help gurus, sure-fire inventions, useless products, chain letters, fortune tellers, quack doctors, miracle pharmaceuticals, Nigerian money scams, charms and talismans are all used to separate the mark […]

The future of news as shown by the 2008 election

From Steven Berlin Johnson’s “Old Growth Media And The Future Of News” (StevenBerlinJohnson.com: 14 March 2009): The first Presidential election that I followed in an obsessive way was the 1992 election that Clinton won. I was as compulsive a news junkie about that campaign as I was about the Mac in college: every day the […]

David Foster Wallace on postmodernism & waiting for the parents to come home

From Larry McCaffery’s “Conversation with David Foster Wallace” (Dalkey Archive Press at the University of Illinois: Summer 1993): For me, the last few years of the postmodern era have seemed a bit like the way you feel when you’re in high school and your parents go on a trip, and you throw a party. You […]

What it takes to get people to comply with security policies

From Bruce Schneier’s “Second SHB Workshop Liveblogging (5)” (Schneier on Security: 11 June 2009): Angela Sasse, University College London …, has been working on usable security for over a dozen years. As part of a project called “Trust Economics,” she looked at whether people comply with security policies and why they either do or do […]

How to deal with the fact that users can’t learn much about security

From Bruce Schneier’s “Second SHB Workshop Liveblogging (4)” (Schneier on Security: 11 June 2009): Diana Smetters, Palo Alto Research Center …, started with these premises: you can teach users, but you can’t teach them very much, so you’d better carefully design systems so that you 1) minimize what they have to learn, 2) make it […]

Taxi driver party lines

photo credit: 708718 From Annie Karni’s “Gabbing Taxi Drivers Talking on ‘Party Lines’” (The New York Sun: 11 January 2007): It’s not just wives at home or relatives overseas that keep taxi drivers tied up on their cellular phones during work shifts. Many cabbies say that when they are chatting on duty, it’s often with […]