Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dropping Keys

That's some good poetry by Hafiz:
The small man builds cages for everyone he knows,  
While the sage who has to duck his head when the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys for the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners.

As quoted by Chris Guillebeau in this talk at Carnegie Mellon:

Monday, May 28, 2012

What Saves You

You know, I just wanted to say something at this point and it's about the reason I've been talking about all of these dead people. And the reason for this is a trip that I took recently to Tibet. And I went there to look at a lake way up in the Himalayas. And this lake is in an extremely remote part of Tibet. And, when the Dalai Lama dies, a lot of lamas travel to this lake to look at it, because, written in code on the surface of the water, somehow, are instructions for finding the new Dalai Lama. For example, there would be a certain sign on the water for the word "west" and another for the word "gate," and another for "dusty road." And so, that's how they would find the new Dalai Lama. They would look in western Tibet and they would find a gate and at the end of this dusty road there would be a little boy playing and this would be the incarnation of the Dalai Lama. Now, being a somewhat suspicious person, I wanted to see this lake and get a look at the huge xenon projectors hidden around on the hermit caves that might explain this phenomenon. So, there were 12 of us trekking, plus 8 sherpas and 27 yaks. And, we set off into the mountains and we got really lost. And we weren't really prepared for how far it was going to be or how cold it was going to be. And, so, we would get up every morning and we would drink this coffee with yak butter, you know, it was snowing and freezing and we would start to walk. And, then, at about 22,000 feet I got altitude sickness that just wouldn't go away. And for days I had a fever of 104, you know, 20 Advil a day. And I was convinced that my head had been sliced open. And, so, when the other trekkers tried to help me, you know, rummaging around in the oxygen equipment, I kept thinking, how nice of them to be pretending to look for something to help me and not even mentioning that my head has been sliced wide open. So, anyway, finally, these headaches went away. And all I heard for days were bells and the horizon was doing some great pulsating gold patterns and then wild stripes. And, we finally reached the lake. But by that point, I couldn't really see much of anything except these gold lights. And that night, because I found out later, the leader had gotten a group together and said, we have to be prepared for the fact that she's going to die tonight, meaning me. So, that night, they sent me down in a body bag, strapped to a donkey, with a sherpa guide and another American trekker and some oxygen equipment. And I just kept slipping in and out of consciousness. So, I said to this other trekker, you know, listen, can you just keep talking to me because I just keep, you know, going away. And this trekker was a really strong guy but very shy. He hardly said anything the whole trip. But he started to talk and he talked non-stop for 3 days. You know, look at the gorse over there, look at the frozen yak turds, look at the stars. And I remember that voice pulling on me like it was a long, thin line. Just a single voice. And, that's how I held on. His voice was a rope, repelling me down. And, that's why I'm telling you this because maybe you know what it's like to be saved this way. Just by the sound of another person's voice. And, so, that's what happened to me and I just thought I should explain it to you.

-"Trip to Tibet"
 by Laurie Anderson

Sunday, May 27, 2012


In 2004, Eric Fair was an interrogator in Iraq who used government-approved torture methods ("strong interrogation") at Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. In 2012, Eric Fair is studying to be a Presbyterian minister, and has expressed his remorse to government representatives, The Washington Post, Amnesty International, victims of other torture regimes, and the readers of the Doonesbury Sandbox. Now that he's published an editorial against torture and confessing his role, people send him emails and letters recommending suicide.

The real question is: what do you do with the rest of your life, once you've done evil and recognized that you've done evil? How should others treat you? How do you forgive the unforgivable, especially if you're the one who needs to forgive yourself?
My God, it's harrowing. Read the whole Sandbox post.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

William Butler Yeats - Fergus and the Druid

{Fergus} This whole day have I followed in the rocks,
And you have changed and flowed from shape to shape,
First as a raven on whose ancient wings
Scarcely a feather lingered, then you seemed
A weasel moving on from stone to stone,
And now at last you wear a human shape,
A thin grey man half lost in gathering night.

{Druid} What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

{Fergus} This would I say, most wise of living souls:
Young subtle Conchubar sat close by me
When I gave judgment, and his words were wise,
And what to me was burden without end,
To him seemed easy, So I laid the crown
Upon his head to cast away my sorrow.

{Druid} What would you, king of the proud Red Branch kings?

{Fergus} A king and proud! and that is my despair.
I feast amid my people on the hill,
And pace the woods, and drive my chariot-wheels
In the white border of the murmuring sea;
And still I feel the crown upon my head.

{Druid} What would you, Fergus?

{Fergus} Be no more a king
But learn the dreaming wisdom that is yours.

{Druid} Look on my thin grey hair and hollow cheeks
And on these hands that may not lift the sword,
This body trembling like a wind-blown reed.
No woman's loved me, no man sought my help.

{Fergus} A king is but a foolish labourer
Who wastes his blood to be another's dream.

{Druid} Take, if you must, this little bag of dreams;
Unloose the cord, and they will wrap you round.

{Fergus} I See my life go drifting like a river
From change to change; I have been many things --
A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light
Upon a sword, a fir-tree on a hill,
An old slave grinding at a heavy quern,
A king sitting upon a chair of gold --
And all these things were wonderful and great;
But now I have grown nothing, knowing all.
Ah! Druid, Druid, how great webs of sorrow
Lay hidden in the small slate-coloured thing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Links for Later 5-22-12

  1. DC brothel longread
  2. Lesson plans for $700,000, Alex
  3. Branson: Dress like a human
  4. Seal / signet rings from the classical revival
  5. How to support R&D&D&D (Research & Development & Demonstration & Deployment) or, When the Military-Industrial Complex was a Good Thing
  6. The story of the transition of Laura Jane Grace, nee Tom Gabel, of Against Me!
  7. How to improve expert prediction

Make Good Art

Neil Gaiman delivered some excellent advice in his commencement address to the graduates of Philadelphia's University of the Arts, including some useful Freelancer Secret Knowledge:
You get work however you get work.

People keep working, in a freelance world, and more and more of today's world is freelance, because their work is good, and because they are easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don't even need all three. Two out of three is fine. People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time. They'll forgive the lateness of the work if it's good, and if they like you. And you don't have to be as good as the others if you're on time and it's always a pleasure to hear from you.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Iron and Wine - Belated Promise Ring

Bonus cover version:
Sunday morning, my Rebecca sleeping in with me again
There's a kid outside the church kicking a can
When the cedar branches twist she turns her collar to the wind
The weather can close the world within its hand

And my mother says Rebecca is as stubborn as they come
They both call to me with words I never knew
There's a bug inside the thimble, there's a band-aid on her thumb
And a pony in the river turning blue
They say, "Time may give you more than your poor bones could ever take"
My Rebecca says she never wants a boy
To be barefoot on the driveway as they wave and ride away
Then to run inside and curse the open door

I once gave to my Rebecca a belated promise ring
And she sold it to the waitress on a train
I may find her by the phone but with a fashion magazine
She may kiss me when her girlfriends leave again
They say, "Time may give you more than your poor bones could ever take"
I think I could never love another girl
To be free atop a tree stump and to look the other way
While she shines my mother's imitation pearls

Sunday evening my Rebecca's lost a book she never read
And the moon already fell into the sea
Saw the statues of our fathers in the courthouse flower bed
Now they blend with all the lightning-tattered trees
They say, "Time may give you more than your poor bones could ever take"
My Rebecca said she knew I'd want a boy
A dollar for my boardwalk red balloon, to float away
She would earn a pocketful to buy me more

This Weekend at the G8

The Chicago PD forgets the number one rule of good police work: Let someone else be the headline. Here come the truncheons.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Disruptive Tech Watch

By shifting from batch manufacturing to continuous production processes, drug production time can be cut from 12 months to 6 hours, according to Novartis's CEO, Joseph Jimenez.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Links for Later 5-9-12

  1. David Graeber on debt, anarchy, neoliberalism and possibilities (via paperpools)
  2. Paul Krugman excerpt from End This Depression Now
  3. What should you do with a really great specialist library when you die?
  4. Vinicius Vacanti quit private equity so he could experience failure (via lone gunman)
  5. Military tribunals not working due to lack of solid precedent
  6. Fred Savage is all growed up
  7. Advice for young screenwriters
  8. Open source intelligence, social graphs
  9. WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing

So Long, Wild Thing

Maurice Sendak has gone to the wild rumpus in the sky. He was 83.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Peter Thiel's Class on Tech Investing

Blake Masters is taking notes on Peter Thiel's Stanford course, which includes a wealth of good information on how to approach and deal with VCs.