Happiness is never grand.

Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly as spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand.

– Brave New World

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me … they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone … I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone … Not on a committee. Not on a team.

– Steve Wozniak

With respect to Asian American guys who think K-pop is bad for their image:

What their main insecurity is that they themselves have invested wholeheartedly into this traditional American idea of masculinity, only to find out that nobody really wants it, especially if it’s a knock-off version. Like an Asian guy trying to do a white masculinity performance. What people really like are these BTS guys, who don’t even bother to learn English, and they’re just completely showcasing their Koreanness. And that’s what people actually respect more.

– Oxford Kondo, Plan A Magazine

It was from Lady Wilde that Oscar learned that identity is a kind of fiction, and that being oneself is a form of playacting.

– David Friedman, Wilde in America

Interviewer: “You could have simply worn a fat suit to give the character his chunky feeling. Why did you decide to go whole hog (so to speak) and actually gain the weight?”

Jared Leto: “I really wanted to inhabit this guy’s skin, and that affected the way I stood, walked and moved. I wanted to make it clear that this was someone who felt very isolated from people, who shyed away from human contact. Also, being overweight, I felt the rejection and mockery of people who didn’t know that I was just playing a part. Their response to me as an overweight and unattractive guy just made me realize how isolated he felt, how unloved and how untouched by human beings. I kind of turned into a sculpture.”

– Jared Leto, on gaining 70 pounds vs. wearing a fat suit for the leading role of Chapter 27

On their way back across the Channel, Bernard insisted on stopping his propeller and hovering on his helicopter screws within a hundred feet of the waves. The weather had taken a change for the worse; a south-westerly wind had sprung up, the sky was cloudy.

“Look,” he commanded.

“But it’s horrible,” said Lenina, shrinking back from the window. She was appalled by the rushing emptiness of the night, by the black foam-flecked water heaving beneath them, by the pale face of the moon, so haggard and distracted among the hastening clouds.

“It makes me feel as though…” he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, “as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body. Doesn’t it make you feel like that, Lenina?”

– Brave New World

The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.

– Achilles to Briseis, Troy

What Bode was saying was this: Knowledge and productivity are like compound interest. Given two people of approximately the same ability and one person who works ten percent more than the other, the latter will more than twice outproduce the former. The more you know, the more you learn; the more you learn, the more you can do; the more you can do, the more the opportunity – it is very much like compound interest. I don’t want to give you a rate, but it is a very high rate. Given two people with exactly the same ability, the one person who manages day in and day out to get in one more hour of thinking will be tremendously more productive over a lifetime.

– Richard Hamming

Here emerges a new class of men devoted to the art of war, and in their souls emerges a new principle, spiritedness. The warriors must be men who like to fight, who are capable of anger, who rush to the defense of their city and of justice. … unlike hunger, thirst, sexual desire, etc., are all related to a goal and their meaning simple. The goal of spiritedness is much harder to discern. The founders of modern economic science … denied the existence of spiritedness because only men who pursue self preservation and gratification of bodily desire can be counted on to act according to principles of economic “rationality”.

– Allan Bloom, The Republic of Plato (Interpretive Essay)

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you’ll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind – though almost any established art form would do.

So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

– Paul Graham

Seriousness is always related to roles … We are more likely to be serious with police officers when we find them uniformed or performing their mandated roles than when we find them in the process of changing into their uniforms. Seriousness always has to do with an established script, an ordering of affairs completed somewhere outside our range of influence. We are playful when we engage others at the level of our choice, when there is no telling in advance where our relationship with them will come out – when, in fact, no one has an outcome to be imposed on the relationship, apart from the decision to continue it.

– James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games

Most radically proposed, … either philosophy or tyranny is the best way of life. Other solutions are halfway measures. If philosophy did not exist, tyranny would be the desideratum which only a lack of vigor would cause one to reject.

– Allan Bloom, The Republic of Plato

A hidden kinship between the tyrant and the philosopher. There are certain kinds of things, (for example, incest) which a gentleman is not even willing to think about, let alone do … the tyrant is willing both to think about them and to do them when wide awake. The philosopher … is at least willing to think about them, and they hold none of the peculiar horror for him that they do for the gentleman. This is because both the tyrant and the philosopher depreciate law or convention in their quest for nature.

– Allan Bloom, The Republic of Plato

What’s so great about Lisp? And if Lisp is so great, why doesn’t everyone use it? Lisp is so great not because of some magic quality visible only to devotees, but because it is simply the most powerful language available. And the reason everyone doesn’t use it is that programming languages are not merely technologies, but habits of mind as well, and nothing changes slower…

I’ll begin with a shockingly controversial statement: programming languages vary in power.

Few would dispute, at least, that high level languages are more powerful than machine language. Most programmers today would agree that you do not, ordinarily, want to program in machine language. Instead, you should program in a high-level language, and have a compiler translate it into machine language for you.

Everyone knows it’s a mistake to write your whole program by hand in machine language. What’s less often understood is that there is a more general principle here: that if you have a choice of several languages, it is, all other things being equal, a mistake to program in anything but the most powerful one.

– Paul Graham, The Blub Paradox

Over at reddit.com, we rewrote the site from Lisp to Python in the past week. It was pretty much done in one weekend. The others knew Lisp…and they knew Python…and yet they decided liked Python better for this project. The Python version had less code that ran faster and was far easier to read and maintain.

The idea that there is something better than Lisp is apparently inconceivable to some, judging from comments on the reddit blog. The Lispers instead quickly set about trying to find the real reason behind the switch.

One assumed it must have been divine intervention, since “there seems to be no other reason for switching to an inferior language.” Another figured something else must be going on: “Could this be…a lie? To throw off competition? It’s not as though Paul Graham hasn’t hinted at this tactic in his essays…”

– Aaron Swartz, Rewriting Reddit

We keep secrets because we get to do our work free from judgement – until we’re ready to share it. We keep secrets because keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you’re really sure that you’re right.

– Evan Spiegel

A cynical young person is almost the saddest sight to see, because it means that he or she has gone from knowing nothing to believing nothing.

– Maya Angelou

Technology should increase the gap in income, but it seems to decrease other gaps. A hundred years ago, the rich led a different kind of life from ordinary people … Now, thanks to technology, the rich live more like the average person.

The only thing technology can’t cheapen is brand. Which is precisely why we hear ever more about it. Brand is the residue left as the substantive differences between the rich and poor evaporate … In 1900, if you kept a carriage, no one asked what year or brand it was. If you had one, you were rich. And if you weren’t rich, you took the omnibus or walked. Now even the poorest Americans drive cars, and it is only because we’re so well trained by advertising that we can even recognize the especially expensive ones.

– Paul Graham

And it is in this quest for universal principles that the theoretical man first meets the opposition of the unphilosophic men who make up a city. They are not loyal to cities in general but to their own city; they love not men in general, but this particular man or woman; they are not interested in the nature of species, but their own fates … for the practical man the particular things to which he is attached are the real things, and he will resist any attempt to go beyond them to “the more general case” which will destroy their character and his capacity to possess them as his very own.

– Allan Bloom, The Republic of Plato

The world is full of low IQ people that try to look intelligent and fall on their ass, and Steve, I think is a fairly high IQ person that does a great job at looking stupid, and that’s probably why he’s succesful at what he does.

– Steve-O’s Dad

Youth is the next best thing to revenue.

– WSJ on Snapchat

Like a finite game, a society is numerically, spatially, and temporally limited. Its citizenship is precisely defined, its boundaries are inviolable, and its past is enshrined. The power of citizens in a society is determined by their ranking in games that have been played. A society preserves its memories of past winners … The power of a society is determined by its victory over other societies in still larger finite games. Its most treasured memories are those of the heroes fallen in victorious battles with other societies … The power in a society is guaranteed and enhanced by the power of a society.

Society they understand as the sum of those relations that are under some form of public constraint, culture as whatever we do to each other by undirected choice. If society is all that a people feels it must do, culture “is the realm of the variable, free, not necessarily universal”.

– Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse

Never underestimate the importance of making money from making music. Let go of any weird taboos you have about it. Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you’re adding value to people’s lives. Making sure you’re making money is just a way of making sure you’re doing something of value to others.

– Derek Sivers

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”

Explanation is an antagonistic encounter that succeeds by defeating an opponent … Storytellers do not convert their listeners; they do not move them into the territory of a superior truth … they offer only vision. Storytelling is therefore not combative; it does not succeed or fail. A story can not be obeyed.

– Finite and Infinite Games, James Carse

Print has one supreme flaw: ink is indelible. An ink-and-paper design is static-it must display all its data, all the time. However, a reader typically only cares about a subset relevant to her current situation. The designer is faced with the challenge of organizing the data so that hopefully mutually-relevant subsets are grouped together, and the reader has the challenge of visually or physically navigating through the entire data space to find the group of interest.

Liberating us from the permanence of publication is the undersung crux of the computer-the dynamic display screen. Its pixels are magic ink-capable of absorbing their context and reflecting a unique story for every reader. And the components surrounding the display-CPU, storage, network, input devices-are its peripherals for inferring context.

– Bret Victor, Magic Ink

I made a bug once, and I need to tell you about it. So, in 2001, I wrote a reference library for JSON, in Java, and in it, I had this line

private int index

that created a variable called “index” which counted the number of characters in the JSON text that we were parsing, and it was used to produce an error message. Last year, I got a bug report from somebody. It turns out that they had a JSON text which was several gigabytes in size, and they had a syntax error past two gigabytes, and my JSON library did not properly report where the error was – it was off by two gigabytes, which, that’s kind of a big error, isn’t it? And the reason was, I used an int.

Now, I can justify my choice in doing that. At the time that I did it, two gigabytes was a really big disk drive, and my use of JSON still is very small messages. My JSON messages are rarely bigger than a couple of K. And – a couple gigs, yeah that’s about a thousand times bigger than I need, I should be all right. No, turns out it wasn’t enough.

You might think well, one bug in 12 years you’re doing pretty good. And I’m saying no, that’s not good enough. I want my programs to be perfect. I don’t want anything to go wrong. And in this case it went wrong simply because Java gave me a choice that I didn’t need, and I made the wrong choice.

– Doug Crockford

Start your life already, you’re gonna be a rich bastard on your own someday, waiting’s a bunch of bullshit.

– Tom, Mad Men

But being great isn’t as easy as just picking a hard goal – in fact, picking a really hard goal avoids reality almost as much as picking a really easy one. If you pick an easy goal, you know you’ll always succeed; if you pick a really hard one, you know you’ll never fail (because it will always be too early to tell). Artificial intelligence is a truly big problem – how can you possibly expect us to succeed in just a decade? But we’re making great progress, we swear.

If your startup is eventually going to make a million dollars, can it start by making ten? If your book is going to eventually persuade the world, can you start by persuading your friends?

– Aaron Swartz

A computational process is indeed much like a sorcerer’s idea of a spirit. It cannot be seen or touched. It is not composed of matter at all.

However, it is very real. It can perform intellectual work. It can answer questions. It can affect the world by disbursing money at a bank or by controlling a robot arm in a factory. The programs we use to conjure processes are like a sorcerer’s spells.

– Abelson and Sussman, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (1984)

At an art school where I once studied, the students wanted most of all to develop a personal style. But if you just try to make good things, you’ll inevitably do it in a distinctive way, just as each person walks in a distinctive way. Michelangelo was not trying to paint like Michelangelo, he was just trying to paint well; he couldn’t help painting like Michelangelo … The only style worth having is the one you can’t help.

– Paul Graham

Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.

– Kevin de Leon (California Senator) and Anthony Rendon in response to Trump winning the 2016 election

Race matters in America. It matters more than nuclear war. The concept of a post-racial American utopia has been shattered permanently, and Asian Americans have no choice but to wake up to the realities of racism, xenophobia, and sociopolitical marginalization … The starting point for Plan A Magazine is the knowledge that we Asians are not as we’ve been labeled. We have strong convictions, deep feelings, and creative responses to the problem of American racism. We can shape the future that will emerge out of this morass, but we cannot be silent.

Plan A Magazine

Here is my promise to you as your mayor: We will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people. If all Muslims are required to register, we will take legal action to block it. If the federal government wants our police officers to tear immigrant families apart, we will refuse to do it. If the federal government wants to deport law abiding citizens … we will step in. If there are threats to federal funding for planned parenthood, we will insure they get the funding they need.

If Jews or Muslims or members of LGBT are victimized or attacked, we will find their attackers, we will arrest them, we will prosecute them. This is New York, nothing about us changed on election day. (in response to Trump winning the 2016 election)

– NYC Mayer Bill de Blasio

The minute that you begin to follow your senses, and not your itinerary, you may begin to find pleasure in many things you would ordinarily overlook. The many sights, smells, sceneries of Paris.

– Anthony Bourdain

The best thing a man can do for his culture when he is rich is to endeavor to carry out those schemes which he entertained when he was poor.

– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

And then there’s Netflix’s April 2017 tweet “Sleep is my greatest enemy.” Understanding this mentality is critical to understanding what Netflix does and why. It isn’t fighting to win a timeslot, an overnight rating, or an advertiser. It’s after every minute of leisure time available – an economic term that refers to all time not spent working. The magnitude of this ambition is without comparison in media – and it follows that the spend and investment losses required to realize this ambition would be similarly shocking.

– Matthew Ball, Netflix stock analyst

Mark My Words…! This drill, will open a hole in the universe. And that hole will be a path for those behind us. The dreams of those who have fallen! The hopes of those who will follow! Those two sets of dreams weave together into a double helix, drilling a path towards tomorrow! And THAT’S Tengen Toppa! That’s Gurren-Lagann! My drill is the drill, that creates the HEAVENS!

– Simon, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, everyone has been told. As we said, even the best venture investors have a portfolio, but investors who understand the power law make as few investments as possible.

– Peter Thiel

There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men. When the majority shall at length vote for the abolition of slavery, it will be because they are indifferent to slavery, or because there is but little slavery left to be abolished by their vote.

Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them.

– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

You’re a lucky man! Stay in the goddamn bar business! Hang on to your money! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen even wildly successful men fall victim to this kind of delusional power grab, this sudden urge to expand the empire – only to find their personal Stalingrad waiting for them.

– Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

So long as it remains out of touch with the rest of the world, an ideal society can remain a viable society. Pala was viable until about 1905. Then, in less than a single generation, the world completely changed. Movies, cars, airplanes, radio. Mass production, mass slaughter, mass communication, and above all, plain mass.

– Aldous Huxley, Island

Will questioned with that innocent air of total ignorance which he had found by long experience to be the best way of eliciting information from the simpleminded and the self important.

– Aldous Huxley, Island

This is one way to enforce a norm, punish those who do not support it … The simulation of the norms game shows that relying on individuals to punish defections may not be enough to maintain a norm … and the existence of a metanorm can be an effective way to get a norm started and protect it once established. By linking vengefulness against nonpunishers with vengefulness against defectors, the metanorm provides a mechanism by which the norm against defection becomes self-policing.

– Robert Axelrod, An Evolutionary Approach to Norms

Being a contrarian will inevitably sometimes make you unpopular or lonely. Accepting this solitary state of affairs at times is essential since it is mathematically provable that you cannot outperform the crowd if you are the crowd.

In the longer term you will ironically be more popular as long as you are right enough in your contrarian views. Of course, being a contrarian and wrong is not helpful and it is magnitude of correctness and not frequency of correctness that should be tracked on your scorecard.

– Tren, 25iq

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo