Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday miscellany

I've been downtown for a cappuccino and to buy a new CD, music that I heard at Famous Photographer's birthday party, and photographed a few early Spring flowers on the way there, and am now (in theory) settling down to some serious work on the database. In fact, as you can see, I'm messing around on the Internets. Here's a sample of what caught my eye today:

Rob Bray, brother of the more famous Tim, said
Life is, for the tool-using resource-hogging primates that we are, a matter of collecting stuff, and we always end up with more of it than is good for us. But the problem comes in when you start to love the stuff even more than its acquisition (which is bad enough), and then it exacts such a terrible price. I have such a fear of stuff, a fear that I might end up loving it instead of human beings. Stuff is incapable of loving you back of course, which is why it can be so very attractive.

Paul Graham, the world's leading LISP programmer-evangelist, said
The wise are all much alike in their wisdom, but very smart people tend to be smart in distinctive ways. [...] The path to wisdom is through discipline, and the path to intelligence through carefully selected self-indulgence. Wisdom is universal, and intelligence idiosyncratic. And while wisdom yields calmness, intelligence much of the time leads to discontentment.

That's particularly worth remembering. A physicist friend recently told me half his department was on Prozac. Perhaps if we acknowledge that some amount of frustration is inevitable in certain kinds of work, we can mitigate its effects. Perhaps we can box it up and put it away some of the time, instead of letting it flow together with everyday sadness to produce what seems an alarmingly large pool. At the very least, we can avoid being discontented about being discontented.

Bruce Schneier, security and cryptography expert and commonsense-ist, said
A lot of [confusion about risk and security] can be chalked up to simple ignorance. If you think the murder rate in your town is 1/10th of what it really is, for example, then you're going to make bad security trade-offs. But I'm more interested in divergences between perception and reality that can't be explained that easily. Why is it that, even if someone knows that automobiles kill 40,000 people each year in the U.S. alone and airplanes kill only hundreds world-wide, they are more afraid of airplanes than automobiles? Why is it that, when food poisoning kills 5,000 people per year and 9/11 terrorists killed 2,973 people in only one year, are we spending tens of billions per year on terrorism defense and almost never think about food poisoning?

In other news today's Wondermark is particularly subtle.

In other, other news the now-traditional Friday favourite song is from this album. Enjoy. And have a nice weekend, too.

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Blogger Antonia said...

good song.
interesting quotes, particularly in this combination. It should never be as bad that half of the people in that department are on prozac. Better then to change that work and not the people. being avoid to be discontent about discontentment seems to be one brainwashes oneself to prozacstate instead of looking straight at the root of discontentment & possibly changing the situation and if it is not changeable one better looks for another job.

February 16, 2007 at 3:03:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Antonia said...

sorry my confused grammar - last sentence of previous comment

Avoiding to be discontent about discontentment seems to be a way one brainwashes oneself to prozacstate instead of looking straight at the root of discontentment & possibly changes the situation and if it is not changeable better looks for another job.

February 16, 2007 at 3:06:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Udge said...

I would definitely agree that a department in which that were true has serious problems that should be addressed, e.g. a psychotic Head.

My interest lay more in the two following sentences about the inevitability of frustration and thtat it shouldn't be confused or commingled with common-or-garden unhappiness.

For me the key is the word "acknowledge." I understood him to mean that the culprit is
society's pretence that everyone lives in perfect happiness and success, and the necessary feeling of abnormality that results when we notice that we personally do not; whereas in fact it's the few who are truly happy all the time who are abnormal. I think he meant that we would be happier in the long run if we could admit more easily to being unhappy in the short term, without the fear of being judged a failure for it.

February 16, 2007 at 4:04:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Antonia said...

yes I understand what you point out and agree. That's were you end up with perfectionism, let it be happiness or eveyrthing else, every tiny deviance turns out to be a big failure or fault. Better (try to) relax and admit occasional failure, so much more human.

February 16, 2007 at 7:21:00 p.m. GMT+1  
Blogger Philip said...

I'm just saying hello.

It's Friday night and it's reassuring to visit your site.

February 17, 2007 at 2:53:00 a.m. GMT+1  
Blogger May said...


February 17, 2007 at 9:49:00 a.m. GMT+1  

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