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
Her long hair is loosely tied back, her face very refined and intelligent looking, with beautiful eyes and a shadowy smile playing over her lips, a smile whose sense of completeness is indescribable.
It reminds me of a small, sunny spot, the special patch of sunlight you find only in some remote, secluded place. My house back in Tokyo has one just like that in the garden, and ever since I was little I loved that bright little spot.
– Kafka On the Shore, Haruki Murakami
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Ten years ago, I had nothing and no cares. Ten years ago, Lijiang was a paradise for those who liked to exile themselves from civilization. (Or to put it less pretentiously, that was where young people who fancied themselves “artists” slept with one another.) Ten years ago, I carried everything I owned on my back (still had some muscles then).
A map of the ancient city in my pocket, I wandered through it from morning till midnight, chatted with every woman who was alone, fell asleep to the accompaniment of song and alcohol. Now I’m back. I have a car, a house-everything a man should have, including erectile dysfunction and insomnia. If happiness and time are the two axes of a graph, then I’m afraid the curve of my life has already passed the apex and is on its inexorable way down to the bottom.
– The Fish of Lijiang, Invisible Planets, Ken Liu
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
Soft power is the ability to attract and co-opt, rather than coerce (hard power). Soft power is the ability to shape the preferences of others through appeal and attraction. A defining feature of soft power is that it is non-coercive; the currency of soft power is culture, political values, and foreign policies.
It was a former French foreign minister who observed that the Americans are powerful because they can “inspire the dreams and desires of others, thanks to the mastery of global images through film and television and because, for these same reasons, large numbers of students from other countries come to the United States to finish their studies”
Many observers would agree that American high culture produces significant soft power for the United States. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said, “I can think of no more valuable asset to our country than the friendship of future world leaders who have been educated here … The continual contest for legitimacy illustrates the importance of soft power. Morality can be a power in reality.
– Joseph Nye, Soft Power
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 model minority is a tractable, one-dimensional (abstraction) simulacrum of a person, stripped of complexity, nuance, danger, and sexuality-a person devoid of dramatic interest.
– Wesley Wang, The Souls of Yellow Folk
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
We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.
– Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities
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.
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
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
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
There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.
– Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Frankly I’m not interested in money itself, what I desire is, how should I put it, the manner of ordering wine without looking at the price?
– Count Fujiwara, The Handmaiden