Sunday, March 24, 2013

Aleksandar Hemon Interviewed in Guernica

Sasha Hemon knows writing is nonlinear:
In writing class, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying, “Oh, this draft is a little better than that one. Anything can be incrementally improved.” But there’s a very simple rule of writing: it’s all shit, until it isn’t. Steady, incremental improvement does not work in art. Some people wake up one morning and they write a fucking great book. Or they write shit for twenty years and somehow, miraculously, one day, because they have made all the mistakes they could have made writing shit, they write something that contains no mistakes. It’s fucking perfect. I’d written shit for many years. Then I came here and looking through what I’d written in Bosnia, I found a paragraph, randomly, that was not shit, and I thought, “That’s how I want to write.” 
I used to live down the block from Hemon, and a couple of blocks away from Studs Terkel. You never knew who was going to be out for a walk on a Saturday.

Hemon's new book, The Book of my Lives, looks like a heck of a read.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Links for Later 3-19-13

  1. Kirtsaeng v. Wiley decided: first sale is first sale, even if publisher wishes it were otherwise. Heinlein's pre-comment.
  2. More good decisions: Why the EFF won on the National Security Letter issue.
  3. Urban Explorer Bradley Garrett profiled.
  4. Anne Carson talks about Red Doc>.
  5. Elon Musk at TED.

Thomas Nagel Mind and Cosmos Roundup

I'm going to end up reading that Thomas Nagel book that has everyone atwitter, even though the reviews of it so far make me think that his alternative theory of non-reductionist, non-materialist reality is like watching Kirk Cameron explain Christianity, in that it's so poorly done that it encourages you to believe the exact opposite, due to the sloppy thinking exhibited in the argument. Though I'm a christian, Cameron makes a stronger argument for atheism that Hitchens ever did. Though I'm sympathetic to critiques of the materialist worldview, I think Nagel makes a stronger case for why the physical world is all there is than most materialists.

Reviews of Mind and Cosmos:

Jennifer Slusser, New York Times
H Allen Orr, NYRB
Andrew Ferguson, The Weekly Standard
Brad DeLong's comments from his blog
Leiter Reports, also here, here
Leiter & Weissberg, The Nation

On the Limits of Empiricism

Those in the world who speak of the regularities underlying the phenomena, it seems, manage to apprehend their crude traces. But these regularities have their very subtle aspect, which those who rely on mathematical astronomy cannot know of. Still even these are nothing more than traces. As for the spiritual processes described in the [Book of Changes] that "when they are stimulated, penetrate every situation in the realm," mere traces have nothing to do with them. This spiritual state by which foreknowledge is attained can hardly be sought through changes, of which in any case only the cruder sort are attainable. What I have called the subtlest aspect of these traces, those who discuss the celestial bodies attempt to know by depending on mathematical astronomy; but astronomy is nothing more than the outcome of conjecture.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

RIP Shannon Larratt

This morning, Shannon Larratt, founder of, body modifier and longtime internet personality, posted posthumously to his website. It appears that he's passed away following a long and extremely painful illness. He was a unique character and will be sorely missed by many.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Links for Later 3-13-13

  1. How to get set up with an API in Pharma (hint: get an experienced consultant on board first).
  2. The Feltron Annual Report 2012 is out.
  3. Management advice for Pope Francis I, who was elected today.
  4. Drawers, well organized.
  5. How many books do you have to sell to get on the Amazon bestseller list?
  6. Michael Crichton on Jasper Johns.

Shape-shifting Jesus Found in Coptic Text

From the Manuscript of Pseudo Cyril, as quoted by LiveScience:
"Then the Jews said to Judas: How shall we arrest him [Jesus], for he does not have a single shape but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat coloured, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man ..."
Possibly the most satisfying headline to write since "Headless Woman in Topless Bar".

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bradley Manning's Statement in Audio

The Freedom of the Press Foundation released a leaked copy of Bradley Manning's statement from the recent plea hearing. A transcript of the statement can be found at Freedom of the Press Foundation's website. A commentary on Manning's statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg can be found at Commentary from Glenn Greenwald is available from The Guardian.

Fred Wilson Interviews Jack Dorsey

Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures, AVC) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square) had a really interesting conversation at the NYU Entrepreneur Festival.(Video on Fred's blog)

A few notes from the talk:
  • A good company favors a VC with good questions & intelligent perspective over a VC with just a check. Checks are easy to come by, good insight is rare.
  • Fast prototyping: Twitter v. 1.0 took two guys two weeks to code. Square took four weeks to MVP.
  • "It's good to have friends with problems." Problems tell you where the business needs to go.
  • Making something look pretty (or changing marketing) is easy. It's the deep stuff (the "soul") that's hard to get right.
  • Obstacles are impermanent: example, Visa's objections to Square. (see also Randy Pausch's Last Lecture, re: brick walls)

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Links for Later 2-5-13

  1. Best long reads about Adam Swartz; Larry Lessig's talk on Adam's Law
  2. Mark Suster interviews Clayton Christensen about the future of education
  3. Kieron Gillen's playlist for Young Avengers
  4. Roko's Basilisk as creepypasta
  5. Peonies
  6. Nine Inch Nails vs. Carly Rae Jepson, "Call Me a Hole"

Sunday, March 03, 2013