motto lotto

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I've been working at a new job since Monday of last week. It will be a while before I come up for air.

My cousin and I were trying to diagnose the personality disorder of all the people in my extended family the other day. This personality disorder seems to match me most closely though I don't fit all the criteria. According to "ICD-10" (whatever that is) on that wikipedia entry, I need to match "at least three" of the characteristics.

Friday, March 13, 2009

so should I "strive for clarity" or ...

Being deep and appearing deep.— Whoever knows he is deep, strives for clarity; whoever would like to appear deep to the crowd, strives for obscurity. For the crowd considers anything deep if only it cannot see to the bottom: the crowd is so timid and afraid of going into the water.

Nietzsche (GS §173)

On the question of being understandable.— One does not only wish to be understood when one writes; one wishes just as surely not to be understood. It is not by any means necessarily an objection to a book when anyone finds it impossible to understand: perhaps that was part of the author's intention—he did not want to be understood by just "anybody". Every more noble spirit and taste selects its audience when it wishes to communicate itself; and choosing them, one at the same time erects barriers against "the others". All the more subtle laws of any style have their origin at this point: they at the same time keep away, create a distance, forbid "entrance," understanding, as said above—while they open the ears of those whose ears are related to ours.

Nietzsche (GS §381)
Maybe it's just a targeted clarity.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the curse that feeds on all life

“You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.” -Philip K. Dick

More PKD quotes

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'd heard of some technology a few years back that was working to allow you to wear special glasses (probably with GPS) that would allow you to walk down say, a street in NYC and have it show you full menus of restaurants as you looked at the buildings on the street. But this technology seems to be able to accommodate something like that and a whole lot more:

hundred most influential books since WWII

Here -- from the Times Literary Supplement (1995). Another sign that I haven't read nearly enough (and probably haven't earned the right to pontificate on much of anything though that doesn't seem likely to stop me). The books from the list that I've read (at least in part):
14. George Orwell: Animal Farm
15. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four
17. Karl Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies
19. Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism
47. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations
64. Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
77. Hans Küng: On Being a Christian
79. John Rawls: A Theory of Justice
84. Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
93. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time
98. Richard Rorty: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-philosophicus
Maybe the books which have proved to be important has changed since 1995. Anyone have a good updated list?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

old paperbacks (and Montaigne)

"I'll gladly come back from the other world to give the lie to anyone who will shape me other than I was, even though to honor me." -Michel De Montaigne

The Vintage 1956 back cover of the Lowenthal's (auto)biography of Montaigne:

autobio of Montaigne (back cover)

I've taken to reading old paperbacks. I'm sure they aren't the best translations but it's just nice to read an old book and they're usually cheap. I also realize ebooks are all the rage and I'm sure they save trees or something but they just don't allow for the same kind of relationship.

"Old books? The devil take them!" Goby said.
"Fresh every day must be my books and bread."
Nature herself approves the Goby rule
And gives us every moment a fresh fool.

Harley Shum

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Wendell Berry in SLC

I went to see Wendell Berry read in SLC on Thursday night at the Masonic Temple in SLC (fun location). He was in town as part of the 14th Annual Stegner Symposium. If I heard him correctly, he hasn't been in Utah in 40 years.

He read from an unfinished essay on the economy, a short piece of fiction, and then took some questions. [I'll post a link to the essay when/if I can find it.]

At some point he was asked about education and he emphasized the need to get students:
  1. asking "what is this place we live in?" and educated about the local habitat
  2. figuring out what the local environment can sustain
  3. working across disciplines to find solutions that are mutually beneficial for man and the environment
He also talked about encouraging students to go back to their homes to bring the information they learn to bear on their communities. This commitment to place is a common theme in his writing.

He had a number of choice comments about how terrible a "healthy economy" is in an ecological sense. Not the best quote of the night but the only thing I wrote down verbatim--he diagnosed our political and economic troubles as related to a lack of skepticism:

"Skepticism ought to be native to us. Our ancestors survived because they were a little skeptical."


Related: Salt Lake Tribune article

Thursday, March 5, 2009

how language impacts thought

This article (pdf) is a discussion of the research of cognitive scientists on how our languages impact our thought. I'm especially fascinated by how languages with words that have gender place such seemingly arbitrary preconceptions on all sorts of things.
To test how this affects the way people think, she presented Spanish and German-speaking volunteers with nouns that happened to have opposite genders in their native tongues. "Key", for instance, is feminine in Spanish and masculine in German, and "bridge" is masculine in Spanish and feminine in German. Boroditsky asked the volunteers to come up with adjectives -in English- to describe these items. German speakers described keys as "awkward", "worn", "jagged", and "serrated", while Spanish speakers saw them as "little", "lovely", "magic", and "intricate". To Germans, bridges were "awesome", "beautiful", "fragile" and "elegant", whereas Spanish speakers considered them "big", "dangerous", "solid", "strong", and "sturdy".

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe is an archeological dig in Turkey that, according to this article, may be the site of the Garden of Eden. The location now seems symbolic for the shift from hunter-gatherer to agriculture based societies. So, metaphorically, the knowledge of good and evil was knowledge of agricultural techniques and animal husbandry and something like overgrazing forced man out of the garden.